Now that my break in the tropics of Glasgow is finished, I have finally been processing my thoughts and encounters from such a long stint in my neighbour paradise city. Co-incidentally, I worked on the NTS production Rantin at the same time. I say coincidence because Rantin is a theatre piece that is preoccupied with identity, Scottishness and caricature within a contemporary context, and some of the insights from the show resonated strongly with my own project.
I saw the show early last year as part of the Arches Behaviour Festival and was really happy to work on it again as it has grown legs into a full touring production. Asked to produce a poster image, publicity material and the production images for its current tour, I had the rare banquet of being able to work on a production from start to finish.
Having seen Kieran’s other work, I have loved how he roots his work in a Scotland I know – through music, through lifestyle, through history. The contemporary orientation of his writing shows the blemishes as well as the beauty and I wanted to import as much of this as I could into the poster. Looking through early postcards for my research, I had already encountered some tartan gems to base the image around. Classic tartan tabletops, with painter’s window-light, follow a formulaic recipe of traditional wares, the odd obscure prop perched on romantic, flowing tablecloths. For the poster we wanted to keep the colour palette and sensational lighting of the early colourised still life, but replace the jaded shortbread, haggis and quaichs for modern jaded equivalents.

The show uses its own props and symbols that make great centre pieces for our image, but it was a hard thing to narrow down the rest. The fish supper and Tenants Super are cardinal of course, but I couldn’t satisfy my imagination without a ubiquitous traffic cone, old runners, or seagul that come with the territory of modern Scotland. Thankfully we reached a happy medium of artifact and artiface for the final image, but not before I turned the rehearsal rooms into a bazaar of salvage with more than a faint fragrance of poisonous alcohol and battered fish.

As you read, if the band are not currently performing in Thurso, they are on their way through Tongue, Ullapool and Oban, purveying and deciphering the great mystery of Scottishness as they go.

The press and production images from the show:


This weekend ushers in the end of The Arches Behavior Festival for 2013. A heady five weeks of completely new work for the stage from Scottish and international artists. Eclectic and contemporary as only the Arches can, even the term “stage” is only applied loosely. This year saw a new creative partnership come to fruition between the Arches and NTS, which I am very indebted to have been involved in from early on.

The project gave five rising Scottish devisers an opportunity to research, incubate and perform new work at the festival. Each with their own developing trademarks and disciplines, some of them out and out rogues, but all of them auteurs of their craft. Having had the chance to meet them together for the school portrait lineup for a feature in The List, I was brimming to shoot all of their performances individually over the course of the month.

First was Gary McNair’s brilliantly referential investigation into stand-up comedy: Donald Robertson is not a Comedian.

Kieran Hurley explored notions of community and ideals of Scottishness in, effectively, a living room jamboree. Intimate and foot tapping: Rantin

Claire Cunningham’s ongoing curiosity in the body brought her to and back from Cambodia to begin a work meditating on the effects of landmines. A framework of disability through which the indiscriminate excess of war can be viewed from a humble perspective: Pink Mist

Finally, Rob Drummond’s centenary revisiting of Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring, through a screen of contemporary dance and music as well as recent societal dysfunctions. Leaving the outcome in the hands of the audience: The Riots of Spring

There have been heaps of great writing documenting the Festival, but for a succinct in house perspective check out Rosie’s blog.


Traverse Fringe

The Traverse during August. An institution in its prime.

Dark and underground, with its mellow, modern climate. Tucked underneath all the commotion like an emergency shelter. Like some patient sentinel, offering cool sanctuary to the martyrs of this frantic month. A dark place to close your eyes and open your brain.

From their fringe program this month, it is remains a steeple of contemporary theatre in Scotland. But much more so during August. Subterranean refuge for many, second home to some (myself included). It acts an unlikely Oasis where artists and audiences from every tier come to draw water. It is the final destination for many after a full day of shows, a place with its own gravity, where sanity always remains. A place you will probably find me seeing out the next few weeks.

Here are some of the performances from this month’s program

Bravo, Figaro – Mark Thomas

Beats – Kieran Hurley

Angels – Iain Robertson

Mess – Caroline Horton

All That is Wrong – Koba Ryckewaert

Morning – Simon Stephens

Born to Run – Shauna MacDonald