The Arches LIVE @ The Arches, 18-29 Sep
September usually brings a heavy dose of post-Fringe relief mixed with melancholy, because, despite our complaints about aching feet and lack of organisation, the summer’s buzz is gone. Sinking back into routine can be soothing but also excruciatingly dreary. Planted in mid-September – not too soon and not too late – the Arches LIVE programme comes to remedy that, with what could be called the beginning of a wild birthday party for the Arches’ 21st. The ‘party’ runs from Tuesday 18 September to Saturday the 29th.
As Jackie Wylie, Arches' Artistic Director, explains: “Arches LIVE offers our most exciting performance makers the opportunity to try out fresh ideas and take risks. This year, as ever, the festival is defined by a determination to ask questions about ourselves and the world around us.”
As always with the Arches, the curation of the programme is eclectic and daring. Acts range from a black metal version of Macbeth by Black Sun Drum Korps, to Peter McMaster’s all-male version of Wuthering Heights. McMaster is something of an Arches regular, emerging from the Conservatoire formerly known as the RSAMD and having the distinctive edge and feminist concerns associated with many of the Contemporary Performance graduates.
The Arches also dips its brush in interactive theatre such as Marcus Roche and Frances Collier’s real life restaging of the board game Risk and Harry Giles’ one-on-one debt counselling service in What We Owe. Roche has recently returned from success at the Fringe, having directed The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. It is part of the Arches' remit to give space to these more experimental approaches an open space.
A theme runs through the core of this year’s works: the idea of masks, alter egos and adopted personae as artists explore the identities we create for ourselves, and those created by others. Perhaps echoing the various songs touted around the cabaret circuit (both Dusty Limits and Bourgeois and Maurice have warnings about Facebook profiles), an interest is evident in digital identities, as our use of technology and gadgetry draws us deeper into a virtual world.
Ian Nulty’s Robinson Family Undercover Secret Agents involves Nulty introducing us to Robert Robinson, his fake online persona, a right wing fundamentalist Christian from North Carolina, with new and opinionated Facebook friends.
Since this is the Arches’ 21st, the enthusiasm is not only restricted to the Arches LIVE festival, but promises to spill into the rest of the autumn season. It sees the return of scare attraction Alien War, as well as high profile gigs, theatre and club events. Having excavated their print archives, the Arches will also exhibit 21 years’ worth of posters and flyers, ranging from the theatrical roots of the venue, and the years where it was led by Andy Arnold, now at the Tron, till today.
Finally, the Arches plan to show their gratitude to loyal fans, customers, staff and patrons with a party to remember on Saturday 20 October. But it is Arches Live that most captures the spirit of adventure and risk that is at the heart of their season and expressive of the venue's provocative present.