Arches Live 2013 captures the spirit of contemporary political theatre

New work from Alison Peebles, Adrian Howells, Greg Sinclair and Calum MacAskill

The Arches Live festival has a longstanding reputation for giving some of the most exciting artists a platform to challenge themselves and their audiences. Of the current crop of successful Scottish artists, many cut their teeth at the September festival.

Jackie Wylie, artistic director of the Arches, explains how she curates the event. ‘We were looking for artists who had something passionate to say, and the potential to subvert and surprise.’ Although this might suggest that they target emerging performers, this year’s line up includes Alison Peebles and Adrian Howells, who have both made work with the National Theatre of Scotland.

Wylie notes that the performances are engaging with bigger issues. ‘There seems to be two key strands,’ she says. ‘One of them is a sense of political responsibility.’ Picking up on recent comments in the press that there is little theatre that addresses the referendum, she continues, ‘instead, there seems to be work that looks at what social responsibility means and what is activism in a society that is so alienated and unfair.’

‘The other theme seems to be looking at – and I don’t want to sound too hippy – at what you need to do to unleash creativity,’ she explains. Greg Sinclair’s entry, I Do, Do I, has the CATS award-winner letting children loose on avant-garde musical scores while Calum MacAskill is seeing what he can make if he sticks to Poundland to buy his props and set.

But the overall atmosphere of the festival has high ideals behind the idiosyncratic performance techniques. ‘The festival seems to be exploring issues around values,’ Wylie concludes. And in this, Arches Live captures the spirit of contemporary political theatre, which willingly brings the personal into the political and the theatrical into activism.

Arches Live, Arches, Glasgow, Tue 17–Sat 28 Sep

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