Theatre Venue of the Month: Arches Live

Live Art young team gather with a programme of over 30 performances

Feature by Gareth Kurt Vile | 29 Aug 2011

As inevitable as the annual migration of English actors from Edinburgh back to milder climes after the Fringe, so September's Venue of the Month is the Arches. [Another annual event is Gareth using this article to promote his own act. - Ed] Arches Live! is the big gathering of the young live art teams, new performance crews and wild outsider artists from the East and West coasts, and 2011 is the largest edition yet, with over thirty acts in a little under a fortnight.

Aside from the obvious highlight of The Skinny's own Mr Criticulous [!], fresh from fighting Onterend Goed in Edinburgh, in a one-to-one confessional, Arches Live! has spots from established names – Little Johnny is taking over the cafe, and Kieran Hurley presents a new work, Beats, that captures the current mood of political agitation in his trademark compassionate style. The eclectic range matches any Fringe venue, from Tony Mills throwing some hip-hop inspired shapes to Rosana Cade and Laurie Brown finding out what the tariff is for same-sex sins in Glasgow's confessional booths.

The joy of Arches Live! is that it sets veterans alongside newcomers: Nick Green is back on the block, after touring the world with her Trilogy, and Solar Bear's artist in residence, Ramesh Meyyappan, returns from swinging Snails'n'Ketchup on the Fringe with a look at the fishy treat from Arbroath. Meanwhile, the latest generation of graduates from the RSAMD make their first steps into post-student production.

The Arches has built up a reputation for challenging and imaginative performance, alongside its comprehensive clubbing and gigs programme. Its subterranean atmosphere, complete with passing train sounds, lends itself to the experimental theatre. When Andy Arnold was artistic director, before he began his revitalisation of the Tron, The Arches became the perfect home for his versions of Beckett, echoing the hollow terror of mundanity through its stone walls. Now, it has become a place where the usual rules of theatre can easily be ripped up.

That isn't to say that traditional theatrical craft is discarded. Stef Smith, award-winning writer of Roadkill, will be reading through her latest script and Tom Pritchard will be using his experience as an improvising dancer to rock his body in a free foyer performance. It's this mixture – like that of the National Review of Live Art – which makes Arches Live! so powerful. And with so many spaces, all levels of theatrical engagement, from the intimate to the grandiose, are included.

The importance of the Arches cannot be overstated. Edinburgh does not have anything similar, although Summerhall is hoping to follow in its alternative path: in the meantime, the Arches functions as a crucible for new work, a meeting place for radical performance communities, a bridge between student and professional theatre making and a champion of the challenging and provocative. With Arches Live!, it insists that the festival season is longer than just a single month.


20 Sep - 1 Oct, various times