Arches Theatre Festival
As the carnivalesque riot of the Arches Theatre Festival rolls around again, Kirstin Innes previews some of the genre-defying acts on offer, including David Leddy’s new work Pater Noster
‘Well, it’s kind of hard to describe. I’m sorry, I just have to meet the person whose party this is . . . Hello! I’m back. There are two dressing rooms which are used for musicians, and there’s a room next to it with washing machines in it, and then there’s that tiny room between the two. And we’re in that tiny room. It’s going to be completely blacked out . . .’
David Leddy is in Delhi, at a garden party for the ‘frighteningly, crazily rich,’ struggling to think himself back to Glasgow to explain exactly which part of the Arches his new work, Pater Noster, will take place in. Typically, for a festival which tries to cram as much into one labyrinthine building and a week-and-a-half as possible, the venue is essentially a glorified cupboard. However, this is exactly the sort of effect the playwright, currently best known for 2007’s intensely moving Home Hindrance, was looking for.
Pater Noster is the latest in the playwright’s interconnected Auricula Series, a chain of site-specific, short and brilliantly crafted audio works listened to on headphones, which Leddy describes as ‘part radio play, part avant-garde sonic art’. The glorified cupboard is working for him because Pater Noster is set in an elevator – Arches Theatre Festival audiences will only be able to go in one at a time.
‘The thing that really set this one going was the sound of the lift in my building – it’s quite a musical lift! The sound rumbles and rises as you get higher, so that was my starting point, really, that I wanted to make something with the sound of a lift in the background.’
A ‘paternoster’ is actually a kind of door-less lift, often used in Eastern Europe, but Leddy has chosen a loaded term for his title. ‘Pater Noster’ is also the Latin translation of ‘Our Father’, it can also refer to a rosary, a string of glacial lakes, a town in South Africa and a type of pasta. The piece may prove equally hard to categorise. Once in the ‘lift’, the single audience member will experience a text which, Leddy says, is best described as ‘like David Lynch – I thought of him because of that strange sense of abstraction you get in his work – whispering in one ear and Bob Dylan in the other. I thought of Dylan because of the way that his lyrics will move you from one place to another, from one line to another, very rapidly, changing ideas.
‘The text itself, which moves around between lots of different locations, is much more abstract than a lot of the other works that I’ve made, so I wanted to make it something that you experience very swiftly and intensely, which is one of the reasons why it’s in the dark. Each audience member is going to be totally immersed in the sound and text, in that tiny blacked out room.’
Leddy is in India on a writer’s retreat, putting the finishing touches to his next play, Sub Rosa, which opens in January. The site-specific piece also ferrets out odd spaces around a theatre; this one will take the audience around the warren of disused corridors and bars at the Citz.
‘Sub Rosa is set in Victorian times, and it’s very strange to be writing it here: there are lots of parallels between Victorian Britain and contemporary Delhi, the huge wealth and huge poverty. This garden party I’m at is frankly obscene – everyone has servants and they treat them all terribly. It’s all feeding into the next play. Strange to think that I’ll be sitting in the heat, itching and writing it, while people five–and–half hour’s time difference away are experiencing Pater Noster – listening to my voice whispering in their ears in a dank basement in Glasgow!’
Pater Noster runs from Thu 10–Sat 19 Apr, every 15 minutes between 6pm and 10.15pm.
BEST OF THE REST
From refugee memorials to muddy-footed performance art, naked fairytales and musical trampolines, we round up a few other examples of the sublime and the ridiculous on show during the Festival
Graeme Miller is, variously, a visual artist, a composer and a theatre-maker – exactly the sort of genre-hopping, visionary type the Arches likes to cultivate. His contribution to the Festival is actually an installation, exhibited previously and to huge acclaim at Theatre Workshop during the 2007 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Beheld consists of ten delicate glass bowls, each of them attached to an image and a recorded sound taken from a particular geographic location – a suburban garden in Paris, a Homebase carpark in Richmond, a field near the Black Forest – where the body of a refugee stowed away in the wheel cavity of an aeroplane has fallen to earth. Like the talking rings in HG Wells’ The Time Machine, each of these bowls, activated when held in the viewer’s hands, functions as a memorial and a looking-glass into another kind of world.
Thu 10–Sat 19 Apr.
DIAS DE LAS NOCHE
In past years, the Theatre Festival line-up has featured international big hitters like Derevo and the Riot Group. Filling that slot this year is Russian-born, Czech-based company Teatr Novogo Fronta, bringing a new touring production of their 2004 Fringe First-winning physical theatre piece back to Scotland. Dias de las Noches is set among the Soviet Union’s refugee artistic community in Buenos Aires, on a swelteringly hot night in 1974. It’s a dark, dream-like mixture of narrative, dance, circus movement and the kind of visual imagery that scorches itself onto the retina, and is thoroughly recommended.
Thu 10 & Fri 11 Apr.
POPSICLE'S DEPARTURE, 1989
It’s 1989. Seattle’s mighty Sub-Pop label dominates the grunge scene, Dido can’t get hold of her dealer, and tonight Jeremy’s band have totally got a gig supporting the Lemonheads. Madi Distefano’s one woman show, the sort of performance that the over-used phrase ‘tour de force’ no longer has the power to describe, was a sleeper hit at last year’s Fringe. It’s probably one of the straighter pieces of theatre in a programme packed out with multi-genre experimentalism, but don’t mistake its minimal production values for lack of punch.
Wed 15 & Thu 16 Apr.
THE ARCHES AWARDS FOR STAGE DIRECTORS
The Arches have been handing out this prize annually for seven years now, offering Scotland’s best young directors the chance to stage a fully-funded and mentored production at both the Arches and the Traverse. Past winners have included Cora Bissett, Neil Doherty and Davey Anderson. This year the winners are Rob Drummond (better known as one of Glasgow’s most promising young actors) with Sixteen, a sinister piece about a 15-year-old girl counting down the minutes until she can legally have sex with her much older boyfriend, and Daljinder Singh, who has previously worked with Akur Productions, TAG and the National Theatre of Scotland, with the atmospheric The Severed Head of Comrade Bukhari.
Tue 8–Sat 12 Apr, then touring to the Traverse, Edinburgh.
Yes, it’s a woman wearing a tent as a ballgown and hanging from the ceiling by her hair. Award-winning German dancer and sculptor Maren Strack invites her audience to get muddy, literally, as they join her on a camping trip, and metaphorically, as she revisits the hipsters and scenesters of New York’s Mudd Club, teetering on the brink of the 1980s.
Tue 15 & Wed 16 Apr.
ALSO LOOK OUT FOR
. . . Last year’s surprise hit, Ann Liv Young, taking on Snow White (mostly) naked, Art Raid, a ‘happening’ where the audience are politely invited to a gallery and then encouraged to nick the paintings, an orchestra of musical trampolines in the appropriately-titled Trampoline Orchestra, the return of Tim Crouch’s 2006 Fringe smash An Oak Tree, and outgoing artistic director Andy Arnold in his final-ever Arches performance, as part of Scratch Night.