Theatre Venue of the Month: Tramway

Feature by Gareth K Vile | 26 Nov 2010

Tramway has often been a prophet without honour in its home city. Tucked away on Glasgow's Southside, it is internationally renowned as both a gallery and theatre, yet its location has prevented it from attaining the same local presence as The Arches or The Tron. Yet after a relatively quiet performance year, as the venue built up both its visual art programme and status as a local community hub, December sees Tramway remind Glasgow that it is the home of large scale contemporary performance.

The Story of How We Came to Be Here is a production by Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan linking the visual arts with performance: the duo are best known in Tramway for their monolithic exhibition HK, which dominated the gallery space in the early twenty-first century. This move into performance is a natural extension of their style, which has always been influenced by theatre. Taking the form of a long monologue – shades of Forced Entertainment's controlled anarchy – it puts the artists directly in front of the audience and unfolds a shaggy dog tale that is part stand up comedy, part absurdist drama.

"The relationships and differences between the performing and visual arts is always something that's interested us," they note. "Tramway, as a venue which shows work across both disciplines, seems to be trying to think through this and our performance follows on from events such as This Time With Feeling – a symposium with contributors from both performing and visual arts."

Within the show, Tatham and O'Sullivan retain their visual art aesthetic – there are echoes of the late modernists in their approach to bricolage, alongside clearly theatrical influences.

"When we make an artwork we often use approaches or forms that could be described as found," they continue. "These approaches may be categorised as amateur, folk, or vernacular art – and drawing on such forms has long been a recurring strategy within both the visual arts and theatre. Vaudeville is one such mode of theatre that has been frequently and constantly referenced and returned to – and it's this process that interests us, as much as the characteristics of vaudeville itself."

If Tatham and O'Sullivan have a history with Tramway, this month's other event – Fresh Faced – stars Junction 25, a Tramway supported youth company who wowed the recent IETM by proving that young performers can grapple with radical theatre making. Jess Thorpe, part of the Glas(s) company who evolved J25 explains that this is more than just a side project.

"The style of working has clear similarities with the work of Glas(s) Performance, but it is important to recognize the distinction – Junction 25 is our collaboration with young people. It means what we do together – all of our ideas pooled – is collective. It means young people trying out new ideas and working together to explore the world in which they experience. They need to and can speak for themselves."

Gender Divide, their latest work, attacks the polarisation of gender roles – a relevant and heady topic that emphasises the company's willingness to take on serious issues from a fresh perspective. Alongside contributions from Y Dance and the NTS' youth project, Fresh Faced is a mini-festival of Scotland's young art teams: and Tramway, now a mixture of community cafe, avant-garde art gallery and legendary performance space, is the ideal venue.


Fresh Faced @ Tramway Fri 17 Dec 6pm, free