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Arches Live 2008

The Arches, Glasgow
Dark entries are second nature to Arches Live. This is particularly the case with Cria (4 stars), in which fantasy becomes a creative force against the spirit of a dead dictator which hangs over the lives of the three women who line up before a coffin at the front of the stage as heavily as the picture frame behind. The shadow of the general who dominates their lives – daughters, mother, housekeeper and lover – is the elephant in the room who walks over everyone. Unless, that is, it was daughter Ana, who’s already suffered the early demise of her mother, who killed him.

This latest collaboration between playwright Megan Barker and director Neil Doherty, whose last work, Pit, caused a minor stir, is their most accomplished to date. Inspired by Carlos Saura’s film, Cria Cuervos (Raise Ravens), which appeared in 1976, this devised production is an increasingly mesmeric firecracker of a show, with a quietly expressive set of performances, some beautifully incisive dialogue and a fantastic use of sound evocative of an entire nation’s heartbeat in the face of all-consuming patriarchy. With hints of magical realism, it deserves far wider exposure than the three night showcase given here.

The Chronicles of Irania (4 stars) is a magic carpet ride into hand-me-down mythology performed and co-devised by Maryam Hamidi with director Catrin Evans. As Hamidi’s character wakes from a bad dream to hold court with tea, sweets and initially whimsical flights of finger puppet fancy, the Jackanory Arabian Nights feel takes a darker turn. The cut-out shapes of suns, moons, butterflies and trees which hang from a yarn that casts Christmas decoration shadows are invaded by the woman’s own history in this fantastically sustained close-up on a world that wouldn’t have been out of place in this year’s Edinburgh International Festival programme.

Shelly Nadashi and Jim Colquhoun’s Arrow In The Eye (3 stars) is a not entirely serious miniature treatise on the power of inanimate objects, in which Nadashi declares her love for a chair through declamatory performance poetry and choreography. At the back of the stage, Colquhoun’s disembodied head pokes through a cardboard speaker, offering a wry and explicit interlude. Soundtracked by a primitive electronic score in an ironically chair-free environment, it’s the sort of thing Chicks On Speed might serve up as a homage to 1970s performance art in an appealingly comfortable if often silly half hour.

The Herald, September 22nd 2008

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