Arches LIVE, the Arches’ annual celebration of exhilarating, boundary-pushing performance from an exciting mix of international artists, ran from 2nd – 11th October. Karen Cheung, Lucy McCalister, and Rachel Pyke give us an insight into the first weekend of performances.
Aby Watson & Alexander Horowitz:
There’s no point crying over spilt milk
2nd – 3rd October
Experimental theatre often tends to waver between two extremes: those that leave you oddly contemplative, and those that makes you wonder just what the performance is getting at.
There’s no point crying over spilt milk is a mashup of theatrical forms built around the tune of Heads, Shoulders, Knees & Toes, an unmistakable symbol of childhood. Aby explains that she and Alex have been for months trying to come up with new ways to perform the song (a little meta, don’t you think?), and soon she launches into a series of renditions of the song.
Milk cannot be faulted for its entertainment value; sometimes Aby is a ballet dancer, sometimes a metal vocalist, and in all of these she is complemented by Alex’s versatile piano playing and guitar strumming. After every performance, Aby shakes her head, looks at Alex, and the pair of them go, “No”, but soon Aby picks herself up again to try one more time. There is no doubt a comical effect in each one of them, though with each new rendition I couldn’t help but think, where is this all going? Later, Aby asks the crowd to put up their hand if they fall under any one of the categories of occupation in her list, with her final questions being whether there are any mothers, fathers, sons, daughters in the house. The audience must be applauded for being extremely cooperative, cheerfully singing along to the odd verses and at times bestowing the pair with more laughter than the performance necessitates.
There’s no point crying over spilt milk takes off from a promising concept that reaches to touch upon topics of success and failure, birth and death, with some ambition. The one-hour performance doesn’t allow for the full exposition of ideas and the execution doesn’t tie up all the loose ends but the lack of conclusion only puts the audience’s hearts out to the performers, along with a want to know more.
Louise Ahl & Fritz Welch:
2nd – 3rd October
Arches Live is always an event which promotes experimentation and Louise Ahl and Fritz Welch: Cloud Mushrooms does not disappoint. The forty-five minute performance piece includes very little plot or dialogue, instead it is a series of fragments, seamlessly following one another. The black curtain veiling the stage is slowly wrapped around one the actors who uses it to create a sinister monster, a dog, then a worm (OK, these are maybe open to interpretation). The presentation of a symbolic bum-bag is followed by a duet on musical saws.
In fact, it is sound that holds the various parts of this play together. Whistles are tied together and used as percussion. A snare drum is played by running a vertical stick over its skin and files and forks were rubbed against metal pillars. They also push the human voice to its limit – most of the dialogue is spoken on an in-breath, or completely garbled while the actors jumped up and down. If hearing the word ‘banana’ being created using reverb on a microphone isn’t your idea of fun, then maybe Cloud Mushrooms is not for you.
Although altogether Cloud Mushrooms is confusing, every constituent part is thought-provoking and, at times, funny. The overall impression is upbeat and welcoming, with a call to join their post-industrial utopia at the end. I would whole-heartedly join them.
Make a HOO
2nd- 3rd October
Sita Pieraccini’s Make a HOO is a one woman show comprising entirely of movement set to a soundscape. The link between the soundscape, created in collaboration with David Pollock, and the movement is central to this evocative performance.
The world of the play is created through this connection as Sita energetically takes the audience round with her on her daily routine. The audience is encouraged to imagine the world around her based upon the movements and soundscape. It is her energy that draws the audience in, which is very visually stimulating. In conjunction with the soundscape, which is an interesting mix of both mechanical man made sounds woven into sounds of the natural world, this creates an exciting performance.
The inspiration for the performance comes from Pieraccini’s artist residency in Sri Lanka where she conducted research in to Sri Lankan song poetry or Kawi, which is traditionally sung during laborious activities. This inspiration is very apparent within the performance, many actions and sections of performance are repeated over and over.
Apart from a small section of audience participation in call and response to Make a HOO, the play in some ways can be disengaging. However the loop of movement and sound is important in her search for a response, an echo of magic in a world of repetition. Hoo? HOO!