Theatre Venue of the Month: The Arches

Perhaps thanks to the credit crunch, Glasgow's performance landscape is shifting. The Arches usually begins its push for Behaviour around this time - the annual jamboree of international experimental work. Yet this year, it has focused on local, emerging artists, leaving May free for the Tron's festival

Feature by Margaret Kirk | 04 Apr 2011

Strictly speaking, neither Davey Anderson, author of Brick Award winner Thickskin nor Claire Cunningham, now an international touring dancer, are emerging talents. The cast of Gareth Nicols' Platform 18 piece are Gary "Crunch" McNair and Kieran "Hitch" Hurley, who have impressive previous form. But the two awards – the Brick scoops up two pieces from the Fringe, while Platform 18 is all about the new blood – alongside the announcement of Tom Pritchard as artist in residence adds to the feeling that The Arches are supporting young artists who do more than boast about their celebrity friends.

Gareth Nicols has been working his way up the directing hierarchy for the past few years: a graduate of the RSAMD's contemporary performance degree, Platform 18 acknowledges his rising star by supporting his creation of What Happened Is This, a play that combines storytelling, scripted and devised drama. With musical support from Michael John of Zoey Van Goey, this line up is something of a performance supergroup, although the inspiration for the piece was a little more mundane.

"I was sitting at home, giggling at these coincidence stories in Bella," Nicols laughs. "Everyone seems to have one, or people strive to pull threads together to make a coincidence." From this shared human need to make up stories, and the humour in telling them, Nicols pulled together his supergroup and won the Platform 18 Award.

Glasgow does have a strong dance community, and the appointment of Pritchard as associate artist connects The Arches to Dance House, for whom he runs a community company, and the many improvisers, in dance, criticism and music and film, who have been part of Pritchard's investigations. And while he is best known for his radical approach to creating dance, he is clearly no elitist. "Education plays a big part in my work, because it is here that I really gauge how well I can communicate ideas on a physical or intellectual level," he explains, before disavowing the idea that experimental means incomprehensible."Experimental for me translates as someone who is simply questioning what it is they are doing and how they might do it."

The return of Claire Cunningham's ME to Glasgow, after success at the 2009 Fringe and an international tour moves The Arches to the West End: although the University's G12 venue has been quiet for the past year, it serves as a better place for Cunningham's spectacular high wire acrobatics. ME pairs her two semi-autobiographical works, Mobile and Evolution, and showcases Cunningham as both dancer and aerialist.

"Mobile came initially from seeing an exhibition by the sculptor who invented mobiles," she begins. "It was something about the confusing distribution of weight." This inspired her to consider how she incorporates crutches into her work, "get them away from their quite negative associations," and use them to explore balance and suspension in an aesthetic form.

The third dance entry, When We Meet Again, was part of Dance Base's programme during the Fringe, and was described by Shimmy critic Mark Harding as "part ghost train, part date, part fair ground ride, part out of body experience." It refuses the rules of most art forms, and is a disorienting delight for stoner and philosopher alike.

With Clare Duffy bringing Money – The Game Show as another new work, and the version of Thickskin coming on the back of Fringe five stars, the programme is not only full but surveys the best of Scotland's new companies and artists.