Monday, 30 July 2012

The Sleepwalk Collective - Amusing Themselves To Death


Entertainment and boredom mean a lot to The Sleepwalk Collective, the 
Anglo-Spanish ensemble who brought one of the most beguiling 
experiences to the 2011 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. As The Flames Rose 
We Danced To The Sirens, The Sirens placed audiences into an intimate 
arena to become a sounding board for one woman's cry for help amidst a 
very private apocalypse. If that sounds bleak, Iara Solano Arana's solo 
performance was leavened by a brittle, deadpan humour that made light 
of her predicament even as she invited the audience to join her 
onstage. Stylistically, The Sleepwalk Collective, under the guidance of 
director Sammy Metcalfe, had stumbled on some after-hours mash-up of 
live art, stand-up and self-reflexive tragi-comedy.

This year the company return with Amusements, another solo show 
performed by Solano and directed by Metcalfe that takes things even 
further.

“We became fascinated with what our relationship with entertainment is, 
and what we want from entertainment,” Metcalfe explains. “With 
television and laptops now, you can become completely absorbed in 
something that's a contemporary form of religious or shamanic 
experience, and that's a fascinating phenomenon. There's also an 
obsession with boredom, which is one of the great social problems of 
our age, trying to find the desire to do something that takes you over 
completely in as way that can deal with your own boredom.”

Metcalfe and Arana have opted for a performance which sounds just as 
stark as its predecessor in terms of a lack of onstage movement. This 
time out, however, in a show that is largely sound-led, The Sleepwalk 
Collective have opted to equip the entire audience with headphones.

“Music is really important to this show, says Metcalfe “We listened to 
Steve Reich the whole time we were making it. Having the audience wear 
headphones means that the sound has a physical presence, so you get 
forty-five minutes of having someone else's voice in your head.”

As with many of the companies in this year's Summerhall programme, The 
Sleepwalk Collective were formed at Rose Bruford College. The European 
Theatre Arts course which Metcalfe, Arana and the third founder member 
of the Collective, Finnish performer Malla Sofia Pessi, came together 
on, was a particular inspiration.

“It's very theory-led,” Metcalfe says of the course. “It really 
encourages you to interrogate whatever you're working on. I think we 
wanted to be a physical theatre company for a while, but then we 
decided that we just wanted to hear someone talk, or not talk, or hear 
music, and that surprised us.”

Between 2006 and 2008, the company developed work bi-lingually, first 
in London, then in Spain, where they found an affinity with dance 
companies. A five-hour durational piece, Why They Are Dancing, and Who 
Are They Dancing For, saw Metcalfe perform alongside Arana in 
headphones, while a follow-up, Nothing Left To The Imagination, was an 
exploration of emptiness that could last between fifteen minutes and 
twenty-four hours. As The Flames Rose picked up awards last year at 
festivals in Kosovo, Bilbao and Birmingham, and Metcalfe now regards it 
as the show that The Sleepwalk Collective found the company's 
minimalist voice.

“Lots of young artists now, the sort of artists who come to the Forest 
Fringe, are dealing with the fact that they don't have any resources to 
work with,” he says. “They work with what they've got, and that's what 
we do as well. I suppose a company like Forced Entertainment are the 
grand-fathers of all of us in a way. They created a set of 
circumstances that could work in a particular way, in which, if you've 
got nothing to work with, you make a virtue of it. It comes from a punk 
attitude, I suppose.”

Amusements will nevertheless be the first Sleepwalk Collective show to 
use full theatrical lighting. If, in punk parlance, this might be 
misconstrued as selling out, Metcalfe is aware too that the company has 
to keep moving forward.

“We're starting to think about what we want to do next,” he says, “and 
that's really quite frightening. All we know so far is that the next 
show is going to have at least three people in it, possibly four, and 
coming after two solo shows that's quite a big step. We don't want to 
keep on repeating ourselves, but I suppose the trick is trying to find 
how we use the limitations of the solo shows in a new context. So what 
we do next could go anywhere, really, though I think at the moment the 
way to go is to keep imposing limitations on the way we work. 
Limitations are good.”

Amusements, Summerhall, August 11th-26th, 5.45-6.45pm
www.summerhall.co.uk
The Herald, July 30th 2012

ends

Legacy – Roderick Buchanan


Scottish National Portrait Gallery until September 16th 2012

For a work that brings together the two sides of the same coin that are 
Irish Republicanism and Northern Irish Loyalism, the black wall that 
divides the two screens of Roderick Buchanan's feature-length film 
installation without comment is a silently knowing piece of symbolism. 
Commissioned in association with the Imperial War Museum, Buchanan's 
piece charts two Glasgow flute bands' participation in two 
ideologically opposed marches. While the Black Skull Corps of Fife and 
Drum travel to Londonderry to celebrate the 320th anniversary of the 
lifting of the lifting of the siege of the city, the Parkhead 
Republican Flute Band commemorate the Easter Rising in Derry during 
2010.

With no narration, and with the sound wilfully flitting between each 
film a la censored UK news bulletins of the 1980s, at first glance here 
are a pair of community away-day rituals. With the screenings flanked 
on all sides by photographic portraits of the members of each band that 
lends them the air of football cards, Buchanan neither judges nor asks 
questions, but opts instead for a form of anthropological reportage. 
Only when you read the statements from each band on the wall does the 
events' full historical context become clear.

Watching the films in tandem, as both bands make their way through 
run-down housing schemes, it's easy to recognise in such mutual shows 
of strength a common ground that speaks volumes about class and social 
conditions. Strip away the uniforms, the film suggests, and both bands 
would be marching to a different, but eminently like-minded drum.

The List, July 2012

ends

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Festival Promenade - Edinburgh Art Festival Hits the Streets

'I'm checking them out
I'm checking them out
I got it figured out
I got it figured out
There's good points and bad points
Find a city
Find myself a city to live in.'

David Byrne / Talking Heads - Cities

If Edinburgh's town planners had had their way in the 1960s, the city would have been cut in half by a flyover that would have run the length of The Meadows and across Calton Hill, razing many of the Georgian Streets in their wake. Just as such a shock-of-the-new attempt at social engineering was being kicked into the metaphorical long grass where it belonged, artistically speaking, Edinburgh was in the midst of a more beneficial form of turmoil.

Art was breaking out of the galleries, onto the streets and into the pubs of Rose Street, then a bohemian enclave populated by poets and painters, or the old Laigh Bakehouse on Hanover Street, where plots were hatched and schemes dreamed. As provocateurs like Jeff Nuttall, co-founder of The People Show, the UK's first experimental performance art troupe, noised up The Abbotsford, such activities became a form of late twentieth century enlightenment that burst through the city's old Calvinist facade with a sense of joy that didn't quite fit in with its surroundings even as it reinvented them.

Much the same can be said about Festival Promenade, Edinburgh Art Festival's series of commissions, in which artists including Callum Innes, Susan Philipsz and Anthony Schrag use the streets and landmarks of Edinburgh as backdrop, subject and inspiration. By tapping into the iconography of the original Enlightenment, Festival Promenade's series of interventions, actions and events open things out for all the world to see beyond Edinburgh's sometime penchant for staying behind-closed-doors.

These range from The Waiting Place, a summerhouse by Andrew Miller situated in St Andrew's Square, to Tourist in Residence, Anthony Schrag's series of guided tours, one of which will culminate in a game of football running the length of Rose Street. In 'The Regent Bridge', Callum Innes will give the old entry into Edinburgh on Calton Road a splash of colour, Emily Speed's 'Human Castle' co-opts the Royal Military Tattoo's motto of Castellum est urbs (the fortress is the city) to inform a human pyramid that will emerge in West Princes Street Gardens, while the One O' Clock Gun will reverberate in new ways around several sites in the city in as 'Timeline', a major sound installation by Susan Phillipsz.

The result of all this is a kind of Doors Open Day of the imagination, that offers up a freedom of the city that reflects what has been going on in the city's grassroots arts scenes for the last few years. Both Edinburgh Annuale and LeithLate have focussed on art as an event or series of events that are as civic and as social much as aesthetic.

“We're trying to get people to look at the city differently,” says EAF artistic director Sorcha Carey. “On one level, Edinburgh and its architecture has a really rich history that's very grand, but its only once you do things like the artists in the Festival Promenade commissions have done that your relationship with it changes.”

Schrag, who will use Parkour techniques to navigate unique tours that will culminate in picnics in public spaces, concurs.

“We look at the ugly side of the city as well,” he says. “You can tell a lot about a city by what it's trying to hide. Edinburgh's a very controlled city. T started out building the New Town at the birth of civil engineering, which was also the birth of social engineering. So it's an imagined city, but one which was trying to entice rich people back to it.”

While arguably all this current high-profile activity legislated by Edinburgh Art Festival could be said to have begun with Martin Creed's marble deification of the Scotsman Steps – now part public thoroughfare, part living monument – such activities go back further.

When Angus Farquhar's NVA Organisation reignited the Beltane Fire on Calton Hill at the end of the 1980s after spending years with Test Department, his agit-industrial troupe of metal-bashing provocateurs in empty factories closed down by Thatcherism, he probably wasn't envisaging Speed of Light, NVA's Edinburgh International Festival commissioned participatory spectacle set to take place on Arthur's Seat.

Of all the artists commissioned for Festival Promenade, Kevin Harman's '24/7' is most born out of the DIY pop-up events that have proliferated over the last few years. Harman's degree show at Edinburgh College of art saw him liberate a heap of door-mats from neighbourhood front-steps, then transform them into an installation in ECA's Sculpture Court after popping invitations to see it through the letter-boxes of each address he pilfered from.

In keeping with such surreptitious manipulations of community, Harman can't say exactly what this new work will entail other than that it's a “David Attenburgh investigation of a twenty-four hour shopping culture.

“I get far more satisfaction from being on the streets,” he says. “Working in galleries is one way of doing things, and if you want to be validated by institutions, that's fine, but working on the street there's no need to sit around and wait. You've got to take the bull b y the horns, because you can do something anywhere you want to. Why wait to be picked up? This is live, and anything can happen.”

The EAF Festival Promenade commissions run between August 2nd-September 2nd 2012

The List, July 2012

ends






Ritualised Frequencies

Church of the Sacred Heart, Edinburgh
Saturday July 21st 2012
Madonna may have been getting sacred and profane with what was by all 
accounts a limp Like A Prayer routine over at Murrayfield, but it took 
Saturday night in a Jesuit chapel hall to really come together. The 
occasion was 16mm film divas Screen Banditas latest cross-art 
'adventure in real film', as they put it for this exposition of rituals 
both ancient and modern by way of live soundtracks to crucial 
ethnographic anthropological archive footage.

Artist Ariadne Xenou sets a striking tone with a brief introduction 
that puts the stress on ritual as a liminal experience, in which social 
orders and conventions are upended, but most people are sitting on the 
floor by this time anyway, only standing during the interval to form an 
orderly queue to witness Xenou's striking installation in a tiny 
ante-room.

Before that, the depiction of native New Zealanders in 'Maori Days' is 
underscored by a duo of the The One Ensemble/Volcano the Bear auteur 
Daniel Padden and Howie Reeve of Tattie Toes. As on-screen rubbing 
noses moves into twitching, gyrating rites, the duo's shuffly, 
twang-laden rhythms emulate and echo the hand-clapping abandonment 
captured on camera.

Xenou's vintage back-lit photographs provide a rare moment of 
stillness, tucked away as they are in the ante-room's shrine-like 
cocoon, where death, transfiguration and any other altered state 
required can take a well-earned breather.

For Maya Deren's 'Divine Horsemen: the Living Gods of Haiti', filmed 
between 1947 and 1954, and not pieced together until after Deren's 
death by her third husband Teiji Ito in the early 1980s, former 
Whitehouse provocateur William Bennett in his Cut Hands guise offers a 
more martial, full-on clatter. Deren's insider-take on voodoo, slo-mo 
animal sacrifices and the dervish-like palpitations of those on-screen 
may have been filmed in Haiti, but, led by Bennett's increasingly 
frenetic electronic pounding, it all starts to resemble congregations a 
little closer to home.

Part 'Live and Let Die', part rave generation wig-out in the woods, 
part Lothian Road at chucking out time, if such sounds and visions were 
beamed before a pop-eyed club-land crowd in search of salvation in a 
late-night, lights-down context,  the trip would be even more 
intoxicating.

The List, July 2012

ends

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The People Show 121 - The Detective Show


Rumours of The People Show's death have been exaggerated. The UK's 
veteran experimental live-art troupe's last appearance in Edinburgh may 
have been with People Show 114: The Obituary Show, but, as the arrival 
in town of People Show 121: The Detective Show, should prove beyond a 
shadow of a doubt, the company who have helped to define 1960s 
counter-cultural frolics for the best part of fifty years are very much 
alive and kicking. Even better, The Detective Show finds the company 
getting back to The People Show's original make-shift roots which a 
million and one similarly inclined latter-day ensembles are similarly 
tapping in to.

“We wanted to get back to doing a show in the way that we did when we 
first started out,” says Mark Long, who has been with The People Show 
since the start. “We didn't get into a theatre for eight years, and 
travelling round we had to be able to get everything for the show in a 
couple of suitcases which you could carry onto a train.

“We also wanted to get back to the sort of shows we’d made about people 
who were either dead or alive, like Charlie Parker and Chet Baker, so 
we drew up a shortlist, and the one name we came up with was Agatha 
Christie. The second name on the list was Hedy Lamarr. Now, everyone 
has an opinion on Agatha Christie, so then we started thinking about a 
street in Hampstead called Lawn Road. Now in Lawn Road there's a block 
of flats designed by a German, which is called the Isokon building, 
which was an early experiment in communal living. It was based around 
the idea that people shouldn't spend all the hours cooking, so there 
were no kitchens in the flats, but a public restaurant instead. One of 
the people who lived in these flats was Agatha Christie, as did as 
well, it turns out, my mother.”

Leaving aside the fact that the designer of the Isokon was actually 
ex-pat Canadian architect Wells Coates who designed the Isokon, which 
went up between 1933 and 1934, rather than a German, such a set of 
associations and connections goes some way to explaining The People 
Show ethos. Such an ethos was founded in a similarly random fashion.

Long before Battersea Arts Centre, Arches Live, the Forest Fringe and 
Summerhall, all five original members of The People Show could be found 
occupying studio spaces in the Abbey Arts Centre. This 
still-functioning place of worship in New Barnet was then owned by art 
dealer William Ohly, who let out the cells to artists. With poet and 
counter-cultural polymath Jeff Nuttall in retreat at the Abbey and with 
an event to organise for jazz composer Mike Westbrook at the 1966 
Notting Hill Gate Festival, panic provoked him to knock on his 
neighbours doors. Along with Nuttall, Syd Palmer, John Dod Darling, 
Laura Gilbert and Long joined forces. After Notting Hill, the group 
decided to stick together, and, through Nuttall, set up shop in the 
grimy basement of Better Books, the Charing Cross Road seat of learning 
then being run by sound poet Bob Cobbing.

“Better Books was the only venue that could put that sort of work on,” 
Long says of the collectively devised chaos with which The People Show 
challenged perceptions of what was and wasn't theatre. “We ran the 
first one on a Monday and Tuesday in December and called it The People 
Show. The basement held about forty or fifty people, and was full both 
nights. Then we did another one two weeks later, then did one every few 
weeks.”

All this is outlined with magnificent grumpiness in Nuttall's 
Performance Art Memoirs, published in 1979. Reading it today, while The 
People Show have yet to join the establishment, Nuttall's book now 
reads both as a crucial document of its time and an essential guidebook 
for today's crop of similarly minded performance troupes working 
outside the mainstream.

The People Show became Edinburgh regulars in the early days of the 
Traverse Theatre, and played both the Royal Court and Joan Littlewood's 
Theatre Royal Stratford East. Luminaries who have passed through The 
People Show's ranks have included film-maker Mike Figgis, while the 
company's current ensemble includes People Show veterans, musician 
George Khan and lighting designer Chahine Yavroyan alongside relative 
rookies Gareth Brierley, Sadie Cook, Fiona Creese and Jessica Worrall.

It is this sense of renewal, one suspects, that keeps The People Show 
going. How, though, does one become a member? Are there People Show 
recruitment drives, and if so, what sort of vetting process is involved 
to meet what is clearly a stringent set of criteria?

“That's a very good question,” says Long, “because we don't go looking 
for people. They tend to find us. It tends to be people we meet if 
we're working in universities, and who do some kind of work experience 
with us. Then one day you're sitting with someone and you suddenly 
realise what's happened and say, 'Oh, you're in The People Show now'.

“But new members take one or two shows to get it. We don't tell people 
what to do. That's not our strength. So, you might not be a lighting 
designer, but comments on the lighting design from everyone are 
crucial. It sounds incredibly simple, but sometimes it isn't. Three 
people in The Detective Show are very time-served People Show 
performers, so they know how it works, so there is an intimacy and a 
knowledge there. Another thing about our group is that you have to 
learn to be horrible to people. If someone's doing something that's a 
piece of crap, you have to tell them. New people don't always get that 
straight away, but they need to tell us as well, to make sure what 
we're doing isn't just about our egos.”

Despite this, Long is fully aware of The People Show's place in the 
scheme of things.

“When you're part of a scene, you're nor even aware that it's going 
on,” he observes, “but now The People Show have become part of this 
archive in an exhibition about Better Books. I look back at that time 
with pride, and it's such an arrogant thing to say, buy when I see the 
phrase site-specific, we were doing it first. Of course, as with 
anything that foes on this long, there are periods of tension and 
difficulty, and the People Show has taken me round the world. I 
certainly didn't think that would happen when we were in Better Books.”

As for the future, Long is optimistic.

“We go in and out of fashion,” he says, but just now there's a really 
good feeling with us. We're embarking on possibilities of being able to 
do big shows again without needing grants, and we may be doing a 
co-production with a main house theatre.”

If such a move sounds counter to the prevailing spirit of the People 
Show, think again.

“People still think of us as anarchic and mad,” Long says, “which is an 
idea I like, but it's not true. To look that anarchic and make it seem 
like what we do is a piece of p*** is actually very hard work.”

The People Show 121: The Detective Show, Assembly George Square, August 
1-2th, 7.30pm
www.assemblyfestival.com
The Herald, July 26th 2012

ends

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Blurt - Puppeteers of the World Unite


When Ted Milton was invited to play Optimo, Glasgow's uber-hip Sunday 
night left-field club night, with his band, Blurt, he didn't know what 
to expect.

We'd done the sound-check,” says Milton in his south London home, “and 
we walked out of the pub, and there was this long long queue outside, 
and I thought, we're going to die a death. This is a club night, and 
we're really going to bomb.”

As it turned out, Milton's manic bark and relentless saxophone honking  
powered by his trio's angular guitar and drums had many of Optimo's 
cool people wigging out on the Sub Club's packed dancefloor.

It was great,” cackles Milton, “even though we could only do thirty 
minutes with no encore, and even though it was a very dangerous place 
to play. There was a piece of metal holding the amps up on one side of 
the stage. It reminded me of the time we played the Mudd Club in New 
York. The same sort of thing happened. We went off and the crowd were 
all cheering, then this huge metal door came down so we couldn't go 
back on. They really knew how to do it there.”

Whether Milton, guitarist Steve Eagles and drummer Dave Aylward get a 
similar reception when they play the Voodoo Rooms as part of Edinburgh 
Jazz Festival this weekend remains to be seen. Whatever happens, 
Blurt's uncharacteristically high-profile appearance is a rare 
opportunity to witness Milton's  unique talent at full throttle. For a 
poet turned puppeteer turned post-punk provocateur who didn't pick up a 
saxophone until he was in his late thirties, this special Puppeteers of 
the World Unite show is also a chance to check out a back catalogue 
that goes back more than three decades.

I'm musically illiterate,” says Milton. “I can't play Mary Had a 
Little Lamb or anything like that, but there are definitely aspects of 
my performance and the band that are a bit jazzy, and I spent a large 
amount of time in my youth listening to Ornette Coleman, so it helps.”

In truth, Blurt's full-on sonic assault can be said to have pre-dated 
the sorts of punk-jazz power trios favoured by the likes of 
Scandinavian saxophone player Mats Gustafson. Having grown up listening 
to Coleman, and with the recently deceased Lol Coxhill providing live 
accompaniment for his puppet show, it's clear where Milton's own 
playing style comes from. He took a while to get there, however, from 
his teenage forays into the 1960s poetry scene, which would see his 
work appear in journals such as the Paris Review and New Departures, as 
well as the Michael Horovitz compiled Children of Albion collection.

I guess I could've been called a beatnik, really,” Milton reflects, 
bumping into Gregory Corso and all these people at parties in north 
London, and doing readings with the New Departures crowd, Roger McGough 
and Brian Patten. I'd always had this sense of recalcitrance. I'd been 
to school and was so bored with everything, then I said to my father 
that I wanted to go to this jazz festival. Once I got there I woke up 
in a field, and there were these people nearby who were cooking 
sausages who invited me over. That turned out to be [poet and Cream 
lyricist] Pete Brown. I came back to London and wore dark glasses a 
lot, which was totally unremarkable, because everyone was wearing them.”

Milton “bumped into Christopher Logue,” who sent off his poems to the 
Paris Review, and for a few years was part of a scene recalled by Eric 
Clapton in his auto-biography. Clapton remembered Milton as 'the first 
person I ever saw physically interpreting music...to enact it with his 
entire being, dancing and employing facial expressions to interpret 
what he was hearing. Watching him, I understood for the first time how 
you could really live music, how you could listen to it and completely 
make it come alive, so that it was part of your life.'

Milton, however, was moving in other directions.

I was just hanging about in my dark glasses and very long hair, saying 
man quite a lot. People were getting bored with me sponging drinks off 
them, and I saw this ad for a job in a puppet theatre in Wolverhampton. 
I don't know why, but I applied, and ended up working with three-foot 
marionettes for a couple of years.”

After this, Milton founded his own set-up. Mr Pugh's Velvet Glove Show, 
and, for the grown-ups, Mr Pugh's Blue Show.

I got good write-ups, and got invited to schools,” says Milton, “then 
got kicked out of various educational establishments, because the show 
was becoming more provocative.”

Milton and Mr Pugh toured Europe's underground arts labs, and ended up 
touring a punky circuit as support to Ian Dury. These shows, Milton 
remembers, were “psychologically scorching, spiritually impaling 
experiences, being in a room with several thousand people, all shouting 
for you to fuck off. But then, you'd play Ireland, and people would be 
attentive and applaud. That part of the world was culturally more 
sophisticated.”

By the time Milton appeared on the late Tony Wilson's ahead of its time 
late-night show, So it Goes in 1978, the same year he provided a 
puppetry routine for Terry Gilliam's film, Jabberwocky, Mr Pugh had 
become “a nasty piece of work designed to empty theatres.”

  Having become “besotted” with a friend's saxophone, Blurt's first 
release was a single, with the magnificently titled My Mother was A 
Friend of an Enemy of the People on one side, and Get, about Pete 
Brown's model aeroplane collection, on the other. Through Wilson, Blurt 
filled one side of a four-act compilation put out by Wilson's Factory 
Records, and shared live bills with Joy Division.

It was a very aggressive act,” Milton recalls of Blurt's early days. 
I see clips from that time, and am stunned by how aggressive it was.”

When asked what drove such anger-fuelled provocations, both musically 
and with Mr Pugh, “You'd have to see some of the polaroids of the 
barbed wire on my potty,” is all Milton will say.

Over the last thirty years, Blurt have dipped in and out of view, 
ploughing Milton's wilfully individual furrow on umpteen below-radar 
releases. These have included two Best of Blurt compilations, while the 
Factory-centric LTM label repackaged the band's contributions to 
Wilson's label in 2008. There have been collaborations with laptop 
artist Sam Britton, an album of new Blurt material, Cut It, in 2010, 
and forthcoming work with with Wire bass player Graham Lewis, who 
Milton met on the set of So It Goes. There have also been a series of 
limited edition books, hand-made by Milton to showcase lyrics, poems 
and rare recordings.

That's made me so much money I can hardly come to Britain in case the 
algae grows over my pool in Barbados,” he jokes.

As well as the Edinburgh Jazz Festival show, Milton and his cohorts 
will also be making an appearance at the Stirlingshire-based Doune the 
Rabbit Hole festival. This will be in the guise of Blurrt, a two r'd 
collaboration  with Glasgow-based tropical pop combo, Fur Hood. Also on 
the bill will be one half of Optimo team, JD Twitch, which, in terms of 
Caledonian connections, brings Milton full circle.

I'm always looking for new territories, “ he says, “rather like a 
junkie looks for a new vein. But this one sounds nice. There'll be hot 
and cold dancing girls in every corner, I hope.”

Blurt play the Voodoo Rooms as part of Edinburgh Jazz Festival, July 
29th. Blurrt play Doune the Rabbit Hole, August 25th.
www.edinburghjazzfestival.com

The Herald, July 25th

ends

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Bill Paterson - And No More Shall We Part


Age becomes Bill Paterson. There's always been a calm sense of 
authority behind everything the Glasgow-born actor has done, ever since 
he arrived onstage in the 1970s in The Great Northern Welly Boot Show 
and The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil. These great popular 
works not only redefined contemporary theatre in Scotland, but 
introduced Paterson's dulcet tones to a world beyond the Citizens 
Theatre where his career had begun.

Forty years on, the sixty-seven year old is preparing for his first 
stage appearance in two years in And No More Shall We Part, Tom 
Holloway's moving play about an elderly couple coming to terms with 
their own mortality. Hampstead Theatre's production is being brought to 
the Traverse Theatre as part of its Edinburgh Festival Fringe season 
following an off-radar try-out run on home turf, where it proved to be 
a very quiet success story.

“They're a very loving couple,” Paterson says of his character, Don, 
and Pam, played by Dearbhla Molloy. “They have a very natural, normal 
relationship. Their kids are grown up, and they're two people who've 
loved each other all their lives. In the play you see them over the 
course of one evening, sitting talking, until gradually you realise 
there's something else going on. It's a play that grips you. It pulls 
you in. There was a box of tissues on the table as people left, and 
there was an awful lot of mascara being reapplied in the ladies toilets 
being reapplied afterwards, I was told.”

Holloway is an Australian writer, who took his play's title from a song 
by fellow countryman, Nick Cave. He wrote it after his mother died 
after suffering from cancer for six years.

“He wished she'd had more choice in how she died,” Paterson explains.

Mortality is something that's been on Paterson's mind a lot lately, 
ever since the recent loss of artistic polymath and adventurer, George 
Wyllie, aged ninety. Paterson appeared onstage alongside Wyllie in the 
mid 1980s in Wyllie's all too prophetic vaudevillian critique of the 
world banking system, A Day Down a Goldmine. It was a show that mixed 
up a small-scale take on theatre of the absurd with some of Wyllie's 
self-styled scul?tures.

“George was unique,” says Paterson. “It would be fantastic to do 
something about the corruption of banks now. It's a show that's much 
more of the zeitgeist than it was in the 1980s.”

Paterson ended up doing it after the late Russell Hunter, who'd 
appeared in an early reading of the show, was unavailable. By that 
time, Paterson had moved out of doing regular theatre, and  had  
appeared in films such as Comfort and Joy and The Killing Fields.

“George said to me, 'I hear you're a bit of an actor. Maybe you could 
learn it better than that other fella.'”

It was a good-natured jibe designed to appeal to an actor's competitive 
spirit, but A Day Down A Goldmine went on to become an Edinburgh 
Festival Fringe hit. Parts of the play were filmed by Murray Grigor for 
The Why?sman, an impressionistic documentary on Wyllie.

“The last time I saw George was last year,” Paterson remembers, “and we 
talked about doing A Day Down A Goldmine again. He was still a very 
tough man, but part of the show involved him lugging round these 
constructions of his, but there was no way he could lift that stuff 
now, so we talked about getting an attractive young man or a beautiful 
girl in the show.”

Sadly, such plans never came to fruition. If they had, audiences might 
have seen Paterson onstage sooner. And No More Shall We Part, after 
all, not only marks Paterson's first stage appearance since Mike 
Bartlett's Earthquakes in London at the National Theatre's Cottesloe 
space in 2010, his first for a decade, it is also his first time on a 
Scottish stage for almost twenty years. That was in 1994 in Mikhail 
Bulgakov's A Mongrel's Heart at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre. Prior 
to this Paterson had appeared in another Russian play, A Man With 
Connections, at the Traverse Theatre in 1988.

“I found it very good going back into the theatre again two years ago,” 
Paterson says. “I really liked being in a company again, especially a 
company like the one for Earthquakes in London. Apart from Lia 
Williams, who's not that old, I hasten to add, the company was full of 
young people, which made me feel like this ancient mariner figure, and 
that really suited me.”

With the establishment of the National Theatre of Scotland over the 
last half decade, it's perhaps surprising that Paterson hasn't been 
co-opted for some main-stage vehicle closer to his birthplace. In 
truth, there have been offers, but boring old logistics have got in the 
way.

“There were various reasons,” Paterson says. “I was doing Law and 
Order, which scuppered one thing, which the NTS were very generous 
offering me. But now we're doing this two-hander in Edinburgh, so I 
certainly wouldn't rule out me doing something in the future. At one 
point I think A Day Down A Goldmine would have been ideal for the NTS, 
but now Vicky Featherstone's leaving, let's see what happens.”

Such an approach has worked well for Paterson, ever since his ambitions 
to be a teacher were thwarted while studying at what was then RSAMD 
were thwarted after he found himself trying out for the Citizens 
Theatre for Youth. This precursor to theatre in education company TAG. 
Paterson toured schools for a year, and made his mainstage debut 
alongside Leonard Rossiter in a 1967 production of The Resistible Rise 
of Arturo Ui.

The 1970s brought the Welly Boot Show, which made Billy Connolly a 
star, and the show which Paterson says was “without doubt, the lynchpin 
of my career”, The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil. John 
McGrath's ceilidh play for 7:84 Scotland captured a crucial moment, 
politically and socially as much as artistically, and Paterson has 
spoken about it a lot over the last thirty-odd years since he toured it.

All he'll say now is that “It was a coming together of everything we 
wanted to do, John Bett, Alex Norton and I, but had never got round to 
doing. All the other great things I've been involved in, The Singing 
Detective, The Crow Road and so on, they would have happened anyway, 
but The Cheviot was the one thing I was involved in that I think 
changed things.”

David Hare's 1977 TV Play For Today, Licking Hitler, took Paterson away 
 from the stage shortly after appearing in the original production of 
John Byrne's Writer's Cramp. Paterson nevertheless managed to navigate 
between appearing in the first production of Ariel Dorfman's Death and 
the maiden and award-winning TV dramas such as Traffik.

Following And No More Shall We Part, Paterson may well be making a 
speedy return to Scotland by way of a proposed stage production of a 
radio play he wrote for Stanley Baxter at Oran Mor as part of the 
venue's ongoing A Play, A Pie and A Pint phenomenon. With former 7:84 
company member David MacLennan running that particular show, if it 
works out it will bring Paterson's career full circle in a way he 
clearly relishes.

“I'm not a lazy actor,” he says, “but I'm not driven in a particularly 
competitive way either. Acting is a very nice way to earn a living 
after a lot of people have retired. And if you're still acting in your 
sixties or seventies, you're not stealing roles from twenty-three year 
olds.”

And No More Shall We Part, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh,
www.traverse.co.uk
The Herald, July 24th 2012

ends

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Infinite Jest


Dundee Contemporary Arts until August 26th 2012
4 stars
With a title taken from David Foster Wallace’s footnote-friendly novel, 
going round in circles is the preserve of all three artists in DCA’s 
fun-packed summer special of a show. Where the videos of Brazilian 
interventionist Cinthia Marcelle subvert noisy city-scapes with 
meticulously orchestrated real-time arrangements, Rob Pruitt is all 
high-class paddling pools, monster-size cookies and down-time denim. 
London-born William Mackrell continues the party theme with birthday 
cake-sized illuminations that may burn fast, but which leave a 
lunar-etched after-glow to bask in.

There’s fire from the off via Marcelle’s video piece,’ Confronto’, 
setting out its store on a monitor that wilfully obstructs the gallery 
entrance. Onscreen, a group of fire jugglers stop the traffic, 
increasing in number as their routine moves from red-light 
entertainment to green-light environmental alchemy. Marcelle’s 
similarly-inclined ‘Volta ae Mondo (Round the World)’ goes even 
further, as increasing numbers of white vans circumnavigate a 
roundabout ad nauseum. Such an elaborately choreographed urban 
merry-go-round resembles the staging of a carefully planned heist; The 
Brazilian Job, if you will.

Mackrell too explores the performative, the playful and the political, 
 from ‘90 Minutes’, in which a concrete football sits at the centre of 
the gallery waiting for kick-off, to the glorious ‘1000 Candles’, in 
which 1000 tea candles are captured as a photograph, on film and, 
health-and-safety permitting, from flame-on mode to last-gasp flickers. 
Onscreen especially, the effect is of some orbiting planet moving from 
dawn to dusk.

If Pruitt’s ‘Evian Fountain’ is a very expensive splash-about, his 
oversize and indisputably toothsome biscuits in’ Pop-Pop’s 
Chocolate-Chip Cookie’s suggests Roald Dahl reconfiguring Charlie and 
the Chocolate Factory in Lilliput. Pruitt’s two takes on ‘Esprit de 
Corps’, meanwhile, fills classic blue jeans with concrete and cotton, 
then sews them together in a body-melding mirror-image which, as with 
Marcelle and Mackrell’s work, contorts reality enough to drive it round 
the bend.

The List, July 2012

ends



Neu! Reekie! Records – Jesus, Baby! What's Goin' On?

Over the last eighteen months, Neu! Reekie!'s monthly Friday nights of what used to be called alternative entertainment has captured Edinburgh's off-piste underground in a way not seen since Rebel Inc lit-zine first broke cover in the early 1990s. Neu! Reekie!'s speak-easy pot-pourri of spoken-word performances seen in-between screenings of avant-garde animations with a live music finale also recalls the ghosts of live-art cabaret night Silencio!, which lit up Edinburgh a few years back, while its spirit dates back to the 1980s post-punk happenings of Richard Strange's recently revived Cabaret Futura nights.

Now Neu! Reekie! Ringmasters Michael Pedersen and Rebel Inc founder Kevin Williamson bring us Neu! Reekie! Records, an aural experience that spreads the night's multi-media inclinations even further. Their first release is a double A-side 7” single, with Pedersen and Williamson overseeing a side apiece. While on one side, Williamson performs the title poem from his collection, In a Room Darkened, for his contribution, a lovely ditty called The Caterpillar Tango, Pedersen has conjured an avant-indie-pop super-group into being.

Jesus, Baby! Are some-time driving force behind Fire Engines, Win, The Nectarine No 9 and now The Sexual Objects Davy Henderson, former Futuristic Retro Champions keyboardist and current TeenCanteenist Carla J Easton, Belle & Sebastian associate Roy Moller and The Wellgreen/The Store Keys dynamo Marco Rea, who gift-wrap Henderson's lead drawl in some delicious harmonies on a lovely concoction mixed and mastered by former Coral guitarist Bill Ryder Jones..

We didn't want to just put out a single,” explains Pedersen, who drafted in former Coral guitarist Bill Ryder Jones to mix and master a song penned with Henderson's voice in mind following an acoustic Sexual Objects set at Neu! Reekie! “We wanted it to be curated so it reproduced the back-catalogue of Neu! Reekie!”

The nearest comparison with Neu! Reekie! is with Giorno Poetry Systems, the label set up in 1972 by post-Beat poet/artist John Giorno, who released albums by the likes of novelist William Burroughs and chart-topping performance artist Laurie Anderson, as well as Giorno's own collaborations with No Wave composer Glenn Branca. In the UK, poet and publisher Michael Horovitz, whose Children of Albion compendium inspired Rebel Inc's own Children of Albion Rovers, took musical associates culled from the pages of his New Departures imprint on the road. These included jazz pianist Stan Tracey, saxophonist Lol Coxhill and People Show founder Jeff Nuttall, as well as Horovitz himself.

In keeping with Neu! Reekie!'s all-embracing eclecticism, the single's cover art will be provided by Jim Lambie, while the record's launch will be a three-pronged long weekend. This begins with a Friday night Edinburgh show featuring Jesus, Baby!'s debut alongside Williamson, and with appearances from novelist Alan Bissett and ex Arab Strap guitarist Malcolm Middleton. An afternoon in-store appearance at Avalanche the next day will see the record physically available for the first time, while a Saturday night Glasgow grand finale will feature a reading from Scotland's original polymath Alasdair Gray. Each Jesus, Baby! member will then show off their individual band's wares before regrouping in a glorious Jesus, Baby! Huddle.

We've started a record company as a visceral representation of what we do in Neu! Reekie!,” Pedersen says, “and now we're turning that into a live event.”

Neu! Reekie! Records Unveiled, Scottish Book Trust, Edinburgh, July 27th, 7-10pm, with Jesus, Baby!, Kevin Williamson, Michael Pedersen, Alan Bissett and Malcolm Middleton: Avalanche Records, Edinburgh, July 28th, 2-3pm, with Jesus, Baby!, Kevin Williamson, Michael Pedersen; Mono, Glasgow, July 28th, 7.30-10.30pm, with Alasdair Gray, Jesus, Baby!, The Sexual Objects, TeenCanteen, The Store Keys, Kevin Williamson, Michael Pedersen

A shorter version of this article appeared in The List, July 2012

ends















LeithLate

Various venues, Leith, June 28th 2012
4 stars
On a rare evening of summer sun, for one night only, Leith Walk itself 
became a little piece of live art promenade theatre it's sort of always 
been. From Whitespace and Superclub in Gayfield Square at the top to 
Henderson Halls in South Leith Parish Church at the left of the bottom, 
some nineteen largely bespoke venues from the Windsor Buffet to Oscar's Alterations, 
Leith Walk Barber's Salon and beyond played host to a cavalcade of live 
music and pop-up exhibitions that fused a civic and social experience 
with an artistic one to expand the aesthetics of community spirit in 
the best sense of that much overused phrase.

Individual events were sometimes rough and not always ready, but in 
their willingness to experiment with form, content and circumstance, 
facilitated an explosion of noisy life that captured a sense of what's 
going on artistically in Leith – and indeed Edinburgh – away from the 
city's more august institutions and designated cultural quarters. The 
sound may have been a mess for much of the after-show party headlined 
by Remember Remember's mighty Steve Reich for indie kids routine, but 
seeing the multitude of chit-chatting auteurs, rogues, vagabonds and 
other creative types in the same room makes you realise what a glorious 
playground the neighbourhood's become. This was the city's real 
avant-garde out in force.

The List, July 2012

ends

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Rachel O'Riodan - Perth Theatre's 2012/13 Season


There’s a window built into the roof of Perth Theatre’s brightly lit 
bar that won't open. This bothers Rachel O’Riordan, and has done so 
ever since the Irish-born creative director for theatre at Horsecross 
Arts first arrived in Perth to breathe fresh life into one of 
Scotland’s most important rep institutions a year ago. For all the 
energy that goes on in the building, it seems, that window retains its 
somewhat stifling presence.

While there's little to be done about that window until the theatre's 
planned renovation takes place over the next three years, it hasn't 
prevented O'Riordan from turning the place as it currently exists 
upside down in an artistic sense at least. In her first season, 
O'Riordan's back to back productions of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, 
Frank McGuinness' hostage drama, Someone Who'll Watch Over Me and Ron 
Hutchinson's Hollywood romp, Moonlight and Magnolias, stacked up to 
make an impressive calling card. While on the surface these were tried 
and tested works, each production, in very different ways, mined 
elements of comedy and tragedy in a stylistically distinctive 
twenty-first century manner.

O'Riordan also hooked up with A Play, A Pie and A Pint to present a new 
lunchtime play in the bar, Cold Turkey, by Perth 
writer, Ben Tagoe, and brought the National Theatre of Scotland's 
production of Men Should Weep to Perth as part of the theatre's 
visiting programme.

The announcement of O'Riordan's second season, exclusively revealed in 
the Herald today alongside plans for Perth Theatre's future, shows off 
even more of the directors ambitions for Perth as a major producing 
house. This year O'Riordan will direct all four in-house productions, 
including Christmas show, Mother Goose. The other three will feature 
work by contemporary writers, including a major coup in co-production 
with the Lyric Theatre, Belfast.

Opening the season will be The Odd Couple, Neil Simon's New York comedy 
about two very different room-mates. It will finish with April in 
Paris, John Godber's look at an elderly northern English couple who win 
a French holiday. With Aberdeen Touring Arts' new staging of Robin 
Jenkins' novel, The Cone Gatherers, touring to Perth in the Autumn 
prior to Mother Goose, 2013 will begin in earnest with The Seafarers, 
by author of The Weir, Conor McPherson. First seen in 2006 at the 
National Theatre in London, McPherson's quasi-supernatural yarn set 
around a game of poker went on to become a hit on Broadway. O'Riordan's 
new production will not only be the play's Scots premiere, but its 
transfer to the Lyric will mark its first appearance in Northern 
Ireland as well.

“The main objective with this new season is to put on exquisite writing 
by great playwrights,” O'Riordan enthuses. “They're all so different, 
but The Seafarer is my baby. I've wanted to direct it for years. It's 
an extraordinary play about alcoholism, the Devil and redemption, and 
it's the most extraordinarily moving and intelligent piece of writing 
about the human condition I've read for years.

“By the same token,” O'Riordan continues, “Neil Simon is a very 
different but equally exquisite playwright. If you look at Frasier or 
Friends, they're all in a direct line from Simon's work. But in light 
of recent discussions on blogs about female casting, we're doing the 
female version. This allows six strong female actors to really get 
their teeth into comic roles in a way that they don't always get to do 
so.”

By her own admission, April in Paris wasn't on O'Riordan's wish-list of 
plays to do. When she read it, however, she discovered that “it really 
taps into this idea that we're all supposed to be socially mobile, yet 
all this couple discover once they get back from Paris is that it'll 
never happen again. In a time of recession, it's an important play that 
exposes that lie in a warm and human way that's full of heart.”

If all bodes well, there will also be another co-production with A 
Play, A Pie and A Pint featuring a brand new work by Frank McGuinness. 
In the longer term, O'Riordan is in development to produce a major 
site-specific piece set to take place at Perth railway station, which 
was one of the main assembly points for soldiers during the second 
world war. She also has her sights set on a large-scale community 
production, and once the new Perth Theatre building opens in 2015, 
O'Riordan aims to bring in young writers and directors to develop work 
in the new studio space.

“I feel incredibly positive,” she says. “We are lucky that we have an 
audience that is educated, literate and committed. My challenge is to 
keep on refreshing that. Doing a play in the bar was an unknown 
quantity, especially as it was a comedy about heroin addiction, but it 
went down a storm and sold out. So there is an audience here who are 
willing to take a risk more than they're sometimes given credit for. I 
think once the audience trust me enough to realise that everything I'm 
doing is for them, then that allows them to feel like they can take a 
punt now and then. Having said that, there is no point in doing what we 
do to nobody. It would be foolish and arrogant to programme something 
nobody wanted to see just because I fancied directing it.”

O'Riordan's desire to connect with her audience goes further.

“I  want people to feel something,” she says. “I don't mean that 
metaphorically. I really want people to come out of that theatre 
affected in some way. I really want the work we do to reach out 
emotionally.”

Beyond the plans she's already set down, O'Riordan is exploring further 
collaborations, and is in preliminary talks with Dundee Rep, the Royal 
Lyceum in Edinburgh, and an as yet un-named company in New York.

“I go looking for partnerships,” she says, “but it takes two, and 
people can say no. But everyone knows these are tricky times 
financially, so no-one can afford to stay in any kind of ivory tower 
anymore. I'm continually surprised by the resilience and the spirit of 
the theatre scene here in Scotland. There's so much going on here, and 
its very collegiate in terms of people supporting each other.”

In terms of Perth itself, O'Riordan has got off to a flying start, and, 
on paper, at least, her plans for the future promise much for the 
audience she so clearly respects. Despite the fickle nature of 
ambitious theatre directors, she also sounds like she's in it for the 
long haul.

“We have work to do here,” O'Riordan says, “but that work has started, 
and achieving what we did in that first season was quite exciting. I'm 
immersed in my role now, which took a while. It's interesting how long 
it takes to fully inhabit a role. If the first season seemed like 
rehearsals and previews, then this new season feels like I'm in a run. 
It's nice not to be the new girl anymore, ” she says, eyeing up the 
window that may yet be forced open.

Tickets for Perth Theatre’s new season go on sale to the public on July 
24th. Season ticket subscribers can book their preferred seats now.
www.horsecross.co.uk

The Herald, July 17th 2012

ends

Monday, 16 July 2012

5 Minute Theatre


4 stars
The National Theatre of Scotland's third 5 Minute Theatre online 
extravaganza of bite-size plays performed largely live was focussed 
around the theme of youth. With some fifty-six separate performances 
beamed from hubs in Glenrothes, Glasgow and beyond in a myriad of 
classrooms, bars and living rooms, the event was run partly in parallel 
with this year's National Festival of Youth Theatre as well as the NTS' 
own young peoples' theatre programme, Exchange.

The end result was a lively, non-stop five and a half-hour mix of rites 
of passage and a desire to be understood on the one hand, and a 
mourning for lost youth on the other. If technical gremlins hadn't 
prevented it, proceedings would have begun with Douglas Maxwell's 162 
Bars Out, a lovelorn percussionist's interior monologue performed 
alongside Claire McKenzie's live orchestral score. Even on second, 
Maxwell's piece was a powerful dramatic lesson on the social and 
creative power of musical education.

Elsewhere were vibrant meditations on knife crime, social media, a 
Julius Caesar on the streets of Belfast and a musical set in a 
dentist's reception. If many works leaned towards naturalism, all were 
keen to stress that young people had something to say. Kiana 
Kalantar-Hormozi and Elliot Cooper's the Curious Case of Tim, 
wonderfully performed by Cooper, especially captured the jumbled-up 
torrent of emotions growing pains bring with them.

The final work performed was Uprising, a theatrical flash-mob 
orchestrated by members of Perth Youth Theatre. As participants seated 
in a refectory stood up one by one, it was akin to a scene from 
Spartacus. With the final words of the piece a defiant “Down with the 
government,” the future appears to be in safe hands.

The Herald, July 16th 2012

ends



As You Like It


Botanic Gardens, Glasgow
3 stars
It takes a wrestling match to make Rosalind’s heart go all aflutter 
over Orlando in what’s possibly Shakespeare’s most long-winded comedy. 
That it’s taking part in the grunt and grapple game that similarly gets 
Orlando’s endorphins going speaks volumes about the excitement going on 
in these would-be lovers young lives. Especially as the mat Orlando 
throws himself about in Gordon Barr’s promenade production for this 
year’s Bard in the Botanics season is ever so slightly soggy due to the 
light drizzle that briefly delayed this weekend’s opening performance.

Barr goes for broke while it stays dry, moving from the opening scene 
in Duke Frederick’s court set beside one of the garden’s hothouses, to 
the Forest of Arden sheltered under a tree, to a flame-lit finale 
beside a sheltered pagoda. The trouble is, to get through this extended 
  rom-com awash with rustic cross-dressing, one needs to do it with a 
gallop that the longeurs between locations hinder somewhat.

There are still good things going on here, particularly from Nicole 
Cooper as a Rosalind who flits between mischievous tomboyishhness and a 
tongue-tied teenage girl with a serious crush. Kirk Bage makes for a 
stately, somewhat Wildean Jaques, and Beth Marshall doubles up nicely 
as Madame Le Beau and comely goatherd, Audrey. Best of all are all too 
brief cameos from Ashleigh Kasaboski as smitten shepherdess Phebe and 
Steven Grawrock as straw-hatted village idiot, William.

As all four couples come home to roost following at least one romp in 
the bushes, As You Like It may take a while to get there, but, rarely 
for this year’s Bard in the Botanics, at least they made it home and 
dry.

The Herald, July 16th 2012

ends



Thursday, 12 July 2012

Craig Coulthard – Forest Pitch


When Craig Coulthard was growing up in Germany, he liked a kickabout as 
much as most other small boys. It gave the Edinburgh-based artist a 
sense of belonging, he reckons, helped him bond and integrate with the 
German kids. Rather than scrambling about in jumpers-for-goalposts 
childhood, however, Coulthard’s games took place in a forest, 
undercover of an all-encompassing blanket of trees that gave the games 
a more dramatic and mysterious edge.

Coulthard revisited his old playground a couple of years ago while on a 
residency in Dusseldorf, only to find a razed and abandoned site. It 
was a similar story in Cathkin Park, the former home to the now defunct 
Third Lanark FC in Glasgow, where Coulthard played as a teenager, and 
where the overgrown trees lent the environment a moody air. Flying over 
the Borders en route home from Dusseldorf, Coulthard was similarly 
struck by the dense impenetrability of the tree-lined landscape below 
and what might just be at play beneath.

All of which goes some way to explaining the thinking behind Forest 
Pitch, Coulthard’s large-scale spectacle that forms Scotland’s 
contribution to 2012’s Cultural Olympiad, which offers artistic 
responses to the Olympic Games themselves. Starting with two football 
matches taking place over one day on private land on the Buccleuch 
Estate just outside Selkirk in the Scottish Borders, Forest Pitch will 
field four teams – two male, two female - made up of players of non-UK 
origin, but who have been granted Leave To Remain here this century.

Football has always been a big thing to me,” says Coulthard, who is 
overseeing all aspects of Forest Pitch, from team training sessions to 
team shirts designed by school-children, “and has been as influential 
as music and visual art, so I think it’s natural that my work’s going 
to be about things I’m interested in.”

Forest Pitch isn’t the first time Coulthard has looked to football for 
inspiration. Indeed, popular culture of all forms has been explicit in 
Coulthard’s work since his time on the MFA course at Edinburgh College 
of Art prior to co-founding the still active independent artspace The 
Embassy in Edinburgh. Football strips, flags and t-shirts are 
paramount, while Coulthard’s band vehicle, Randan Discotheque, released 
a single, Heather the Weather, in homage to iconic Scots TV 
weather-girl Heather Reid. As tartan-tinged an anthem as it gets, 
Heather the Weather’s chucking-out-time sing-along infectiousness is a 
crossover smash-hit in waiting.

While Forest Pitch possesses a similar common touch, the contradictions 
of such a wilfully inclusive work taking place in a country where the 
so-called ‘beautiful game’ has been tainted by sectarianism is plain to 
see. As is too the sport’s capitalist excesses that have recently 
resulted in Rangers’ financial collapse. As with some of Jeremy 
Deller’s civic-minded work, Forest Pitch is something of a reclaiming 
of the original people’s game’s roots.

In Scotland football is dominated by the Old Firm,” Coulthard 
observes, “but beyond that there are hundreds of thousands of people 
who go and watch their local teams play at amateur level. I wanted to 
highlight that football can be a unifying thing rather than a 
destructive one, and that football doesn’t have to be about power, 
money and tribalism.”

With this in mind, Forest Pitch’s long-term effect will not be apparent 
for a couple of decades, when trees planted to mark out the shape of a 
football pitch after the games will at last become visible when the 
existing plantation that envelopes them is cut down.

It will grow and change into this really odd site,” says Coulthard, 
and I hope it becomes something less tangible as well, and that people 
will try and understand their environment a bit more, and that the 
people who take part in the games will take something away from the 
experience that matters.”

Forest Pitch, Buccleuch Estate, near Selkirk, July 21st 2012. Ticket 
enquiries, tickets@forestpitch.org
www.forestpitch.org

Scottish Art News, Issue 18, July 2012

ends