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Sonica, Tramway, Glasgow


The second week of Sonica – Glasgow's audacious new sonic arts series – centred around two major installations at Tramway.

Both melded music and images; both stretched the boundaries of conventional film techniques; both favoured abstract atmosphere over direct narrative. They were produced and delivered with great skill, but neither fully grabbed me as a piece of theatrical storytelling.

First Bluebeard: a digital 3D take on Bartok's opera by the Dutch arts collective 33 1/3 in which images were cleverly projected on, in and around a large cube. The visual trickery was intriguing but didn't carry any intrinsic meaning; it is the content that matters, and, as in many productions of the opera, we were confronted by stark signifiers of psychological and physical abuse.

Perhaps most sinister were the long stretches of calm (a bucolic duck pond was particularly unnerving) – that Bluebeard is private predator and public gentleman is a timely message. A copyright glitch with the Bartok estate forced 33 1/3 to abandon quotes from the opera itself; the replacement score merely alludes to Bartok's soundworld and isn't half as effective. The Prologue, too, sounded a sanitised echo of the original.

Sven Werner's Tales Of Magical Realism Part 2 was a much sweeter affair. The ritualise of watching was half the fun: we gathered in the Tramway lobby, were led into the street outside and through a mysterious entrance at the back of the building where a low-lit, low-impact dance routine bided time until we were chosen one-by-one to experience the instillation proper. Werner is a whimsical artist whose work buys so fully into steam-punk aesthetics that it risks becoming a series of sepia-tinged pastiches. It looks great and the quirky presentation is a laugh. But, like Bluebeard, novelty isn't quite enough.

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