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SF: As Andy Arnold moves to take the reigns at The Tron theatre, The Skinny finds out how his radical Arches track-record will carry over to his well-to-do new post<br/><br/>PQ: ""theatre should be fairly sordid - and this is why I love The Arches - it should be dangerous and dank""

Feature by Gareth K Vile | 06 Mar 2008
After two decades in charge of Glasgow's premier underground theatre-cum-nightclub, Andy Arnold is leaving the Arches to lead The Tron. This was unimaginable a year ago, as Arnold himself admits: "the Tron job has been advertised twice in the last five years, and neither time did I think of applying." Through its lively mix of bands and actors, The Arches has become one of Glasgow's great advocates of cutting edge creativity: The Tron, despite its brave remit for new writing, has a more conservative personality.

Having been handed the keys to The Arches in 1991, Arnold transformed the derelict tunnels into a complex of alternative venues inhabited by challenging performances, experimental club nights, superstar DJs and radical musicians. Such was his commitment to idiosyncratic programming, he even scheduled shows in the toilets. While The Tron is hardly moribund, it caters to more conventional tastes, concentrating on plays that, at least, follow a more recognisable structure.

When The Skinny caught up with Arnold, he was in reflective mood - unwilling to dwell on past glories, he seemed optimistic about his future. He did, however, identify why his tenure at The Arches had such a distinctive personality.

"I have always believed that theatre should be fairly sordid - and this is why I love The Arches. It should be dangerous and dank, like you don't know what you are coming into. This is why the Lottery money ruined so many places: it made them smart. It is like going into a hotel foyer - but it's the decadence of theatre that people love. It's the same with the clubs - the first club we did, Café Loco, had that speakeasy feel. Behind this little door, a piano playing, festooned with lights and the smell of decadence."

The Arches itself helped to define this aesthetic: "This space becomes part of the thought process in what to put on. We are very lucky. I'll probably miss that - where the space becomes part of the set. It works very well for theatre that has a slightly worn out, tawdry downtrodden quality - which Beckett and Pinter have."

Although The Tron might seem far away from this - it has a beautifully renovated bar and a very traditional auditorium - Arnold insists that his enthusiasm for the script dovetails with The Tron's mission.

"I always had an eclectic range of stuff. The main characteristic has been small works by classic writers which have not been performed often, like Tennessee Williams or Eugene O'Neill: and the big visual devised things. I have done a lot of shows based on epic poems- Inferno, Under Milk Wood. What I have started to do recently is new scripts: and that is part of The Tron's remit. And that's the new challenge for me: to find new writers, new work."

Certainly, Arnold's dynamism is needed at The Tron: he will face up to the venue's challenges with his usual irreverence and doubtless re-imagine the theatrical possibilities of the building, from box office to clock tower. He concludes "hopefully, that will be an aim at the Tron, to de-posh it a bit" - to fuse the edginess of The Arches with the respectability of the Tron. The future of The Arches has been established - for the first time, it has solid funding from The Arts Council and it has become so well established that its identity is secure. What, at first, seemed unlikely and worrying could invigorate the Glasgow theatre for the next decade. Let's hope the man who made it happen finds new life in his new tenure.