Get me out of here…

‘I hope this is over soon,’ ‘keep your shit together’, and ‘get me out of here’ were my main abiding thoughts during Glen Neath & David Rosenberg: Seance. These are the exact same thoughts that I had recently when watching the Peppa Pig Live Show. But I really enjoyed and was affected by Seance. Peppa Pig – not so much.

Enjoyed is probably the wrong word; as from the second I entered the shipping container performance space with my fellow dozen audience members, I had to fight the urge to scream ‘let me out’.

Once inside the container, we were instructed to take a seat at a dining table and to put on a pair of headphones. Sitting opposite one another, we exchanged nervous smiles before the lights were cut and we were plunged into complete darkness. What follows is an incredibly creepy, intense and unsettling 15 minute show, which is conducted through sound only.

Seance
Photo credit: glenneath.co.uk

It is hard to describe what happens next… The medium of the Seance tells us to keep our hands firmly on the table no matter what; he whispers to audience members; stalks up and down the table; keep your hands on the table; summons a demon or did he mean to dispel it; questions us as to whether we believe; the demon arrives; keep your hands on the table; audience members are made to lie on the table; the demon’s breathing is getting closer; the entire place is vibrating now; KEEP YOUR HANDS ON THE TABLE…

And it’s over. Phew!!!

This is one immersive audio experience. I don’t think any of the above actually happened. Okay I knew at the time that a demon wasn’t really there – obvs! But I was pretty convinced that people were getting out their seats and lying on the table and that the medium was speaking directly to me at points (I answered him on a number of occasions) and that keeping my hands on the table was pertinent to everyone’s safety. But really, none of this happened right? I was just listening to a meticulously devised recording.

This is the third project that writers and theatre-makers, Glen Neath and David Rosenberg, have collaborated on. I love the quote that have use as a descriptor for the show:

‘The most important thing in this world is the destruction of superstition. Superstition interferes with the happiness of mankind. Superstition is a terrible serpent, reaching in frightful coils from heaven to earth and thrusting its poisoned fangs into the hearts of men. While I live, I am going to do what little I can for the destruction of this monster’ – Robert Green Ingersoll (1886)

I saw Seance in the Faraway Forest at Latitude Festival. To find out where it is next showing visit glenneath.co.uk.

 

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Trilogy Blog – Part 3: The final act

I’m going for the approach that audiences like to take in the largest section of action in the first act and the shortest in the final act. That is a thing isn’t it? So, if you’ve read Part 1 and Part 2 of my trilogy blog, you’ll see that the length is decreasing as we progress.

So, for the final installment – what are the longest and shortest plays that I have seen?

4776637523_aaa8deffd2_bThe longest was Lanark: A Life in Three Acts at the Citizens (photographed), which clocked in at 4 hours long. The adaption of Alasdair Gray’s seminal Glasgow novel, Lanark: A Life in Four Books, benefited from combining the 4 books into 3 acts.

The shortest was Far Away by Caryl Churchill, also at the Citizens, with a running time of approximately 45 minutes. It was most notable for an eccentric and hilarious hat parade, which featured a small baby and seemed to last for about half the play.

Have you been to see any epic or modest plays in terms of length? Are you going to see any of the trilogy plays in Scotland this year? Let me know in the comments section below.

Trilogy Blog – Part 2: Does length really matter?

What length have the longest and shortest plays ever performed been? Well, one is less than a minute long, whilst the other is more than a day long. Running times aside, the documented longest and shortest plays couldn’t be more polar opposites in terms of content, themes and who authored them.

The shortest is an incredibly pessimistic view of life from womb to tomb written by Samuel Beckett, the preeminent ‘theatre of the absurd’ playwright and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature (pictured in blog preview – he has such an amazing face that I couldn’t resist).

Whilst the longest is a morality tale by Vickrant Mahajan – a motivational speaker, bestselling author and former Mr India whose aim is to spread super positivity to the world.

Breath by Samuel Beckett (first performed in New York, 1969; noteworthy that the UK premiere took place at the Citizens in Glasgow in 1969)
Low level lighting, rubbish strewn across the stage, a baby’s cry…
Check it out below, if you’ve got the time and all.
Total running time: Approx. One minute

Yes Thank You Universe – A Tale of Two Attitudes by Vickrant Mahajan (first performed in Jammu, India 2015)
The Guinness World Record entry for the longest play depicts a tale of two contrasting families (No family and Yes family), emphasising how a positive attitude directly impacts on the quality of life. 
Running Time: Approx. 24 hours, 20 mins, 2 secs

Well, I know which one I’d rather see!
Check out Part 3 of my blog tomorrow for the longest and shortest plays that I’ve ever seen.

Trilogy Blog – Part 1: You wait for ages then three come along at once

2016 is the year of trilogy plays. Forget the first installment of the new Star Wars trilogy (although it was bloody good, am I right?!?); trilogy plays are where it’s at this year. More specifically, Scottish trilogy plays based on heart-rending material.

We have seen an explosion in long-form TV and radio shows in recent years, allowing for slow builds and detailed character development. This is a trickier thing to replicate on stage. When it’s a live performance, you can’t choose your style of consumption to the same extent, whether that be binge or pleasure delay. Theatre companies may offer different viewing options to audiences; but it’s no Netflix style – here are all 13 episodes of your favourite TV show all at once; go on… call in sick to work… I dare you.

If the interest in the epic two-parter play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, is anything to go by, then maybe the time is ripe for long-form plays. Although, the Harry Potter phenomenon, and JK Rowling’s editing, is a law unto itself, so this really isn’t anything to go by. Moot point – my bad.

But the emergence of three major trilogies set to be performed in the first half of 2016 got me thinking – what is the longest play ever performed? And indeed what is the shortest? More on that in Part 2 of my blog, which I will be publishing tomorrow. Oh and Part 3 will come out the day after tomorrow – yes, this is a trilogy blog, emulating the content and all that.

Firstly, here are details on the aforementioned trilogy plays, their viewing lengths and the viewing options available to audiences.

James Plays David Eustace

The James Plays – National Theatre of Scotland, Edinburgh International Festival and National Theatre of Great Britain 
This vividly-imagined trilogy brings to life three generations of Stewart Kings (James I, II and III of Scotland) who ruled Scotland in the tumultuous fifteenth century. Each stands alone as a unique vision of a country tussling with its past and future; viewed together they create a complex and compelling narrative on Scottish culture and nationhood.
Viewing options: over three evenings or in the one day at weekends.
Total running time: 7hrs 40mins approx.

This Restless House, Citizens Theatre and the National Theatre of Scotland
A contemporary take on an epic Greek tragedy, Aeschylus’ The Oresteia. The bloody saga of a family torn apart by a succession of murders and betrayals was first performed in 485 BC. The production brings the universal themes of justice, revenge, loyalty, and the evolving relationships between teenagers and their parents to the fore.
Viewing options: over two evenings, or in one day on Trilogy Saturdays.
Total running time: 5 hrs 20 mins approx.

The 306: Dawn, National Theatre of Scotland, 1418 NOW and Perth Theatre, in association with Red Note Ensemble
Based on real events, it charts the heartbreaking journey of three British soldiers who were executed for cowardice, desertion and mutiny during World War I. The piece of music theatre gives back a voice, story and name to these three unknown soldiers – who appear on no war memorial.  The 306: Dawn will be performed in a transformed barn in the Perthshire countryside with an accompanying live score.
Viewing options: one viewing; no interval. The nine day run includes a one-off performance at 2.15am on May 28th.
Total running time: 90 mins approx.

Remember to check out tomorrow’s Trilogy Blog – Part 2 to find out the longest and shortest plays ever performed. Guesses in the comments section below welcome.

Top five picks for Festival 2014

Festival 2014We are at the beginning of one of the most exciting months in Glasgow and Scotland’s history. The world’s greatest athletes and around one million visitors are about to descend on Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games. And while the sport is exciting and all that, it is the massive cultural programme running alongside the Games that really appeals to me.

Culture 2014 has been running all year, as a nationwide programme of events inspired by the multicultural Commonwealth and the unique aspects of the host city and nation.

During Games time (July 23-August 3), Culture 2014 will pause to allow the focus to fall purely on Glasgow, as the city hosts the biggest party it has ever thrown – Festival 2014. Running alongside the sporting action, Festival 2014 will see Glasgow transformed with an invigorating mix of entertainment and culture filling the city’s streets, spaces and stages.

There is so much to choose from, with the programme featuring family events, theatre, intimate shows, outdoor spectaculars, film, music, fashion and more. If you live within travelling distance of Glasgow, I would encourage you to take full advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime gathering of prominent international and Scottish artists as they turn Glasgow into the epicentre of culture for two weeks.

Most of the events are free-of-charge or cost under £5. And you don’t need tickets to enjoy the fun, simply take a saunter around Glasgow Green and the Merchant City – the two main sites for live entertainment.

If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of choice on offer, then here are my top five Audience Adventure picks of the fest for those seeking an extra special cultural experience this July.

Cargo Cinema ActionCargo Cinema Action! (Saturday, July 26), Custom House Quay, Clydeside
An outdoor cinematic spectacular, taking over the River Clyde for a day-long celebration of Glasgow and film. Cutting edge arts collective, 85A have been working with Glasgow Film (Theatre and Festival) to create an interactive event, which is set within the fictionalised film shoot of an abandoned Russian cruise liner that is drifting eerily towards Scotland. Step onto the colossal set docked at the Clydeside for an adventure in film, theatre and the senses.  The show will be performed five times throughout the day, with a different live band providing the score each time. Come night fall, the cruise ship will be transformed into a musical playground with light installations, live music, films and an open-air caféFree, reserved ticketing via glasgowfilm.org

Tin ForestThe Tin Forest Festival (various shows and dates from July 24-August 3), South Rotunda
The Tin Forest Festival is a two-week programme of events, focusing mainly on Glasgow’s industrial past and creative future.  The festival is the culmination of one of the National Theatre of Scotland’s most ambitious projects to date, involving contributions from over 100 theatre makers from across the Commonwealth as well as everyday Glaswegians, who have been involved in an eight month outreach project. My top two recommendations for the festival are: Dear Glasgow – a one-off interactive event, which invites audience members to give voice to their hopes and dreams for their city, with the aim of creating the blueprint for a better Glasgow.

A Puppet Theatre Experience, where audiences of 10 or less, meet a crabbit old man who has decided to take it into his own hands to create a better world. The 30 minute promenade performance uncovers a weird & wonderful new world and oddball cast of eccentric puppets en route.
Tickets for all events cost £5/£3 via thetinforest.com  

That Sinking Feeling PosterThat Sinking Feeling (Friday, August 1), Kelvingrove Bandstand, Kelvingrove Park
Three films by celebrated Glaswegian director, Bill Forsyth, will be screened at the recently refurbished Kelvingrove Bandstand – Gregory’s Girl, Local Hero and his lesser known debut film, That Sinking Feeling. Costing just £5,000 to make, That Sinking Feeling follows four unemployed and hapless Glaswegian teenagers as they embark on a plan to make money out of stolen sinks. The film has been out of copy for years, so this a chance to watch the fully restored print, within the beautiful setting of Kelvingrove Park (which I believe actually features in the film). Discover or rediscover the warmth, wit and charm of Forsyth’s work and find out just why he’s known as the ‘Capra of the Clyde’!
Free, non-ticketed


Sound to the SeaSound to the Sea (Friday, August 1 and Saturday, August 2), Science Centre
Cryptic – an arts collective known for ‘ravishing the senses’ with left-field performances – have joined forces with the Science Centre to create one of the largest scale events on the cultural programme. Billed as a night-time nautical extravaganza, Sound to the Sea will bring together specialists in outdoor art, pyrotechnics and aerial dance to create a visually and musically stunning event. Musicians, including Treacherous Orchestra, Miaoux Miaoux and Model Aeroplanes, are lined up to perform on boats and ships, which will double as stages. Expect fireworks, flares and feats of the unimaginable in this night-time celebration of Glasgow’s history, industry and dynamism. Free, reserved ticketing via glasgowsciencecentre.org

Admiral FallowGlasgow Mix Tape (Saturday, August 2), The Living Room, Glasgow Green
Glasgow record label, Chemikal Underground will bring together an array of the city’s independently-minded musicians to provide a showcase for the city’s legendary music scene. Anticipate the feel of a mini music festival, with acts including Admiral Fallow (pictured), Edwyn Collins, The Bluebells, Lloyd Cole and more. Great music, pals and beers; come rain or shine – it’s got the makings of a classic summer’s day out. Free, non-ticketed

 

 

Sleep No More

I had an amazing holiday in New York last month, which was an intense week of cramming in as much culture and cuisine as possible. One of the highlights was going to see Sleep No More, which has been running in the Big Apple since March 2011. The award-winning and critical acclaimed reinterpretation of Macbeth by companies Punchdrunk & Emursive has had cross-over success with culture vultures and mainstream audiences alike, entering popular culture with front page coverage on Vanity Fair, appearances in major US TV shows, and a run that is continually extended due to demand.

Oh hi!

Oh hi!

For those of you unfamiliar with Punchdrunk, they create immersive theatrical experiences, where audiences are allowed to roam around freely, taking in the physical performances of the actors as they come across them. This takes place within an incredibly detailed large-scale set that spans multiple floors, with each room more akin to an art installation than a theatre set. Oh and audience members wear masks giving you the freeing feeling of anonymity for the three-hour event. Here’s me in me mask.

From booking your ticket to exiting the performance, the entire production is in character. The premise is that you are checking into The McKittrick Hotel – a decadent luxury hotel from 1939 that was sealed up at the outbreak of WW2 and is only now opening its doors for the first time. The  fictitious McKittrick Hotel is in fact an abandoned warehouse which has been transformed into a performance space, restaurant and bar, defying belief in terms of vision, detail and cost. When we arrived, a couple behind us asked the doorman if the show was in the same location as the restaurant and they were bluntly told that there was no show, this is a hotel.

When you ‘check in’ you are handed a playing card and are led to a bar, where 1930’s styled sirens perform songs to a backdrop of red mood lighting and absinthe cocktails, gently immersing you in the atmosphere before your suit of card is called to enter – this works nicely as a way to break up couples and groups.

Sleep no more3

Sleep no more 1Upon entering, I straight away came across one of the major set pieces of the play, the witches summoning a series of apparitions, prophesying Macbeth’s future. It’s an intense scene to open with, and I did feel for anyone who may be there on a first date, as the strobe lit naked orgy rave, including animal heads, blood and babies, was quite the opener for those of us who came across it as their first room. Of course, many won’t see this scene until much later on in their journey, which is part of the fun of such expansive promenade performances.

Nowhere is the line ‘All the world’s a stage’ more apt than when you attend a Punchdrunk show. Firstly, you are on the set. There are large spaces, for example, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s chamber, an asylum, a ballroom and a maze like forest, as well as numerous smaller rooms, where less of the main sequences play out, but where much is revealed from looking though the intricately displayed props, from letters on desks to opened suitcases on beds. Here, the sets play the role of main character as much as Macbeth himself.  Secondly, you discover the stories in a non-linear fashion, just like the stories we come across in life, dipping in and out, sometimes alone and sometimes with others. You won’t see everything but no-one else will have the exact same experience as you.

Sleep no more 2
Macbeth is a great choice of source material for this type of production. The play’s themes of madness, murder, scheming and the supernatural lend themselves well to unusual stagings. The acclaimed National Theatre of Scotland’s Macbeth, where Alan Cumming played each of the characters in the one-man show, is also an example of a radical re-imagining of Shakespeare’s tragedy. Meanwhile, Punchdrunk’s decision to set the play within a 1930s film noir context worked perfectly, as many film noir tropes, for example, paranoid lead male, femme fatale and crimes of passion, are relevant to Macbeth.

Unlike when you go to a proscenium arch play where the audience plays a passive role and stories and motives become clear as the play progresses, in this type of immersive theatre you have to work hard to decipher the story and characters. I am sure many people thrive on solving such a puzzle, but for me personally, I found it extremely useful having prior knowledge of the play, as I could identify what scenes I was in (you are in the scenes) and which characters were whom.

I have previously seen Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man, which was based on a text of which I had no prior knowledge – check out my review here.  I tried to follow what was happening but soon became overwhelmed and had to just give myself over to the sensory experience, with the hope that bits of the story would occasionally pierce through my bewildered wall of wonderment. I gained more enjoyment from Sleep No More as I knew the play well, but a sketchy outline of the story would have been more than suffice to help guide you through the journey, elevating the enjoyment factor in my opinion.

In fact, it was quite exhilarating at one point to realise that I knew exactly where to position myself to make sure I was able to follow Macbeth to his next scene to see him murder King Duncan, after interpreting a torrid dance sequence as Lady Macbeth convincing her husband that the deed must be done. Props to me!

If you’re planning a trip to New York, be sure to make a reservation at the McKittrick Hotel for a most memorable evening. You can check out the Sleep No More trailer here and for tips on attending a Punchdrunk show, scroll to the bottom of my previous blog on The Drowned Man.

 

Behaviour Festival 2014

Expect some of the most out-there and inventive pieces of live performance you’ll ever experience at this year’s Behaviour Festival.  Now in its fifth year, the Arches festival of live performance provides a snapshot of today’s most exciting international artists, presented alongside their Scottish counterparts.

Running until May 2, the festival includes 17 performances, many of which touch upon this year’s key themes of ‘politicised feminism’ and ‘the interaction of live music with other disciplines’.

I have never been to Behaviour before, but having watched the showreel and attended the launch, I am very excited about taking in some of this year’s shows, but also a little daunted. This is cutting-edge theatre, with a no-holds-barred approach to subject matter and means of expressing those subjects.  I am anticipating raw, naked, shocking, vital and confrontational performances (this is a strictly over 18s event).

Each of the 17 shows have piqued my interest, as each is groundbreaking in some shape or form. However, there are four shows in particular that I am hoping to see, as they fit under the Audience Adventures’ banner of out-of-the-norm, boundary pushing theatre:

Hate Radio – International Institute of Political Murder (March 14 & 16)

Hate Radio

Set in Rwanda in 1994 just before the genocide, Hate Radio recreates the broadcasts from real-life popular radio station, RTLM, where sport and music played on the airwaves alongside propaganda and incitements to violence.  German company IIPM are at the forefront of the emerging genre of documentary theatre, with vast amounts of research going into the creation of Hate Radio’s broadcast scripts, which are performed within the glass walls of a reconstructed radio station. Expect a very powerful experience; not one for the faint hearted.

Cain’s Book – Untitled Projects (March 27-29)

Cain's BookUntitled Projects look set to once again challenge the concepts of how theatre can be presented, with their interpretation of Scottish author Alexander Trocchi’s Cain’s Book. The fragmented source material has been turned into a three-hour live extravaganza, with the audience allowed to come and go as they please during the show, which consists of theatre, cinematic projection, dance interludes and live music. I’ve seen two of Untitled Projects’ works before, The Salon Project and Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner, and whilst their techniques can sometimes overwhelm the emotional engagement, I am always interested to see what this ambitious company do next.

Neighbourhood Forum – 21CC (April 29-30) Neighbourhood Forum

Taking place at a site outwith The Arches, 21CC invite you to attend a neighbourhood forum with a twist. The political performance takes on one of the biggest barriers to individuals and society – bureaucracy.  Share your personal and community woes and prepare to be entertained as 21CC attempt to solve them for you, in spite of the political institutions standing in both their, and your way.

Dark Behaviour – The Arches and 85A (May 2)

Dark BehaviourHow to end a festival which questions everything and everyone, offers insights without answers, and takes a glimpse into all kind of behaviours that exist? The Arches have teamed up with the polymathic arts-collective 85A, to offer a club night like no other to bring the festival to a felicitous close. Dark Behaviour is described as involving ‘unexpected happenings and strange sightings’ under the cover of dark, while you and fellow attendees allow ‘dark behaviours’ to unravel. Vague yet intriguing!

Tickets are priced around the £12 mark for individual performances and you can pick up a very reasonably priced festival pass for £48 from the Arches’ box office. For more info visit The Arches website.