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Stephen Greer: Your guide to Glasgow at the Fringe

By | Published on Friday 29 July 2016

Ishbel McFarlane

While Edinburgh might dominate a little during its Festival month, let’s not forget what a great cultural hub Glasgow is all year round. And plenty of the talent that makes that so can be found here in Edinburgh during August.
As for Fringe 2016, and the work that we can expect to make a big impression here that’s made its way over from the more Westerly regions of Scotland, we thought we’d turn to someone a bit more immersed in that scene than we are.
So over to Fringe veteran and lecturer in theatre practices at the University Of Glasgow, Stephen Greer.

While Edinburgh lays claim to the world’s largest arts festival, Glasgow’s all-year-round theatre and performance scene produces some of Scotland’s most exciting and adventurous new work. It helps, of course, that the city hosts The Tron and The Citz – hubs for new writing and contemporary stagings of classics respectively – as well as the CCA (aka Glasgow’s Centre For Contemporary Art), Tramway and an ever-expanding experimental performance scene which includes the free festival //BUZZCUT// and the freshly-minted scratch night ‘Only Skin’.

But August means the Fringe which means – like everyone else – Glasgow’s off to Edinburgh in search of a stage and an audience. Here’s a small slice of what you can expect from the theatre-makers who make a home in Scotland’s largest city.

National Theatre Scotland’s hotly-anticipated collaboration with US-based ensemble The TEAM, ‘Anything That Gives Off Light’, premieres at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, splicing myths from both nations with live music from the Scottish-American folk tradition. NTS’s hugely successful musical ‘Glasgow Girls’ – based on the true story of seven feisty teenagers who rally to defend their school friend and her asylum-seeking family from deportation – also returns to Edinburgh at the Assembly Rooms (perhaps taking on renewed significance in a country that voted to Remain in last month’s referendum).

Glasgow theatre’s ongoing affair with the possibilities of live music, spoken word and radical politicals sees a pair of new shows from the creative team behind 2013’s love letter to clubbing and the power of the crowd, ‘Beats’. First, Julia Taudevin joins forces with Kim Moore, and Susan Bear and Julie Eisenstein from Glasgow’s indie-pop duo Tuff, for guerilla-gig-theatre show ‘Blow Off’, tackling the psychology of extremism. While on the south side, Kieran Hurley’s new show ‘Heads Up’ at Summerhall features an original score from Michael John McCarthy (known for his work on Dundee Rep’s revival of 7:84’s ‘The Cheviot, The Stag & The Black, Black Oil’) in telling the story of a familiar city on the edge of destruction.

Hurley’s show also appears as part of the Scottish Government sponsored Made In Scotland showcase which looks to offer an alternative to the biennial British Council Showcase in programming tour-ready work to catch the eye of promoters from around the UK and overseas. This year, the showcase also features Sam Rowe’s queer, literary autobiographical work ‘Denton And Me’ alongside Gary Gardiner and Ian Johnston’s collaboration with the late Adrian Howells, ‘Dancer’ – a show featuring the best (most generous, most touching) interpretation of Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’ that you’re going to see across the whole Festival.

Both works first saw light at The Arches, the sprawling club and performance space forced into closure in mid-2015 after a licensing dispute and the heavy-handed intervention of Police Scotland. It’s no small measure of The Arches’ legacy that so many artists associated with the space have become regular fixtures at venues and festivals around the world.

Other Arches associates present at this year’s Fringe include Nic Green, whose show ‘Cock And Bull’ – created with Rosana Cade and Laura Bradshaw – sees three women turn Tory conference speeches into theatre in an act of political exorcism. You should also fight for a slot to experience Cade’s deceptively simple yet striking ‘Walking: Holding’ – a one-to-one performance in which audience members are led by the hand on a carefully planned route within the city. Both shows appear as part of the Forest Fringe at Out Of The Blue Drill Hall, now in its tenth year. Across town, Ishbel McFarlane’s ‘O Is For Hoolet’ (pictured) – which started life as winner of The Arches Platform 18: New Directions Award – sings a passionate and moving history of Scots and minority language culture at the Storytelling Centre.

Finally – and flying the flag for Glasgow’s sharply socialist generosity – stalwart of the Glasgow and Scottish comedy scene Janey Godley returns for her thirteenth year at the Fringe with a pay-what-you-want show at the Free Sisters on the principle that no-one should be too poor to see comedy. No money will go to promoters as Godley posted on social media, “if you can afford it, put money in the bucket; if you can’t afford it, take money out”.

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