When Take Me Somewhere infiltrated Glasgow’s arts venues last year, the pilot edition of this new festival of experimental theatre and performance took with it the spirit of the Arches. This new entity was founded by Jackie Wylie, the former artistic director of the labyrinthine arts lab and club space which, situated beside and beneath Central Station, was underground in every way. When the Arches closed in 2015 after Glasgow Licensing Board turned down the venue’s application for a late license following advice from Police Scotland, its absence left a damaging hole in the city’s artistic infrastructure.
Arriving on the scene two years later, Take Me Somewhere was a reclaiming of the energy which had driven the Arches, and made it one of the most significant arts spaces in Europe. It was also a form of closure, as many of the tireless team of individuals and pioneers who had developed their skills at the Arches reunited to tie up loose ends in a way that was effectively getting the old gang back together.
With Wylie announced as the new artistic head of the National Theatre of Scotland as Take Me Somewhere’s initial programme gathered steam, it was feared that this new initiative might be a one-off. As the three-week programme of the second Take Me Somewhere opens this week, such fears have mercifully proven to be unfounded. Taking in regular venues including Tramway, the Tron, Platform and CCA, the programme will also see work take place I the Art School, the Panopticon Music Hall, the Mackintosh Cross Church and the Botanic Gardens. Artists from Scotland include Cora Bissett, Peter McMaster, Eilidh MacAskill, Rosana Cade and FK Alexander. Their work will sit alongside artists and companies from Canada, Austria, Belgium, England, Lebanon and the USA.
An in-tune with the times array of performative provocations will see the likes of a feminist deconstruction of an iconic neo-classical ballet, an eleven-year old boy in theatrical purgatory with Shakespeare’s son and an avant-garde journey into LGBT liberation. There will be a seven metre scale model of the moon, and what is described as a ‘non-binary, gender-queer, post-homo-hop rap artist who believes that the art world is just one big scam for rich people”
With support from Creative Scotland and Glasgow Life, this year’s Take Me Somewhere is led jointly by artistic director LJ Findlay-Walsh and executive producer Gillian Garrity. With Walsh the former arts producer of the Arches and curatorial associate for the first Take Me Somewhere, and Garrity’s work as an independent producer also seeing her work at the venue, both have come through the Arches equivalent of the boot room. In terms of acting as a continuum of that experience, Take Me Somewhere is effectively spreading its tentacles around Glasgow in a way that seems to push boundaries even more.
“I suppose what we’re wanting to do,” says Findlay-Walsh, “is to bring international work that wouldn’t otherwise be seen here, and to have that work seen alongside work from Scotland, so one interrogates the other. I think that’s really important for artists coming from different countries to be able to experience each other’s work in that way. There’s a lot of brilliant work from abroad coming in, but there’s so much forward facing work on our own doorstep as well that it’s really important that there’s a platform for both. I think Scotland really stands its ground internationally in terms of experimental performance work just now that it isn’t difficult to use that as our ignition point.
“At the Arches we were able to follow artists from the spark of an idea to developing it to fruition at the Behaviour festival. In terms of Take Me Somewhere, we don’t have the capacity to do that with emerging artists, and are working with more experienced practitioners, so we can bring in as much experimental work of quality as we can.”
The baton for emerging artists has already been picked up by the likes of long-standing initiatives such as the Buzzcut festival, as well as platforms developed by the likes of the National Theatre of Scotland under Walsh’s former colleague Jackie Wylie’s tenure. With this in mind, Walsh isn’t worried about any lack of activity that may eventually feed into Take Me Somewhere.
“I don’t have any kind of formula to help decide what to put on at Take Me Somewhere,” she says, “but it’s very exciting what’s going on in Scotland just now.”
Highlights of the first week of the festival include Violence, FK Alexander’s personal meditation on the cruelty of love and the loneliness and desperation that stems from it. Also running at Tramway is Hamnet, a hit of last year’s Dublin Theatre Festival, in which the Dead Centre company put an eleven-year-old boy onstage to play Shakespeare’s son. Dead Centre won a Herald Angel award for their Edinburgh Festival Fringe run of their remarkable piece, Lippy. For one night only, Florentina Holzinger presents Apollon Musagette, a deconstruction of George Balanchine’s seminal ballet, which pretty much stamps it into the ground.
The following week sees Rosana Cade and Eilidh MacAskill team up at the Art School for Moot Moot, as the pair play doppelganger radio hosts Barry and Barry. Over at the Britannia Panopticon, the patriarchy of Hamlet is challenged by Peter McMaster in the King of Rags and Stitches. At the Tron, veteran drag turn David Hoyle performs Diamond, in which he reflects on his personal journey through LGBT liberation, taking in significant moments in LGBT history, including a look at figures such as Alan Turing. These are just a few examples of the range of work that Take Me Somewhere offers.
“It’s interesting what’s starting to happen,” says Findlay-Walsh, “because a lot of artists from Scotland were inspired by some of the work from Europe that came here. Now, in some instances, work from Europe is being inspired by our artists, and that’s really exciting.”
While Take Me Somewhere has expanded its horizons in every way this year, interesting things are happening as well in the building that once housed the Arches. With the site having lain empty up until recently, in February it opened up as Platform food market, which hosts an array of independent food vendors. While the days of the Arches as a pioneering arts venue may be done, to date, at least, its new use has staved off fears that developers might swoop in to attempt to transform the space into something ill-fitting the legacy of its former use.
“I’m delighted,” Findlay-Walsh says of the space’s transformation into Platform. “I thought they were going to turn it into a car park, but if it can be used as an independent outlet for some form of creativity, that’s great.”
Given previous concerns that Take Me Somewhere might have been a one-off, this second edition suggests that Walsh, Garrity and co have designs on it becoming a more permanent fixture of Glasgow’s artistic calendar.
“Absolutely,” says Findlay-Walsh. “We’re already in talks with various organisations about possibly co-producing work next year, and I feel there’s a real appetite in the city for artists to have the kind of platform that Take Me Somewhere can provide. I think people are interested as well in seeing something that’s started from scratch. So, yes. I think we’re here to stay.”
Take Me Somewhere runs at various venues across Glasgow, May 16-June 4.
The Herald, May 15th 2018