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Solo Change star Obermayer is talent to watch

For three successive nights this week, the Arches played host to a group of performers who - like the audiences who watched their work - are looking to the future.

STAMINA: Subject to Change morphed into an endurance test.
STAMINA: Subject to Change morphed into an endurance test.

In studio and in vaulted arch, final-year students from the Contemporary Performance Practice (CPP) course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland put themselves, and their ability to shape and deliver ideas, on the line - this time next year, they won't have the learning environment of CPP as a "safe house" where taking risks is more or less a default setting. For them, Into The New 2014 is a springboard into the wider world of performance.

As in previous years, this showcase is a mixed bag of personalities, burning concerns and methodologies. How I wished I could have stayed put for the full five-hour odyssey of Lulu Obermayer's Subject to Change, a durational solo that steadily morphed into an endurance test of her mental and physical stamina alike.

Her programme note described it as "5 Acts, 5 actions, 5 hours, 5 aphorisms, 5 rhythms and more than 5kg of onions". I missed out on the onions - they came into play in Act III - but in between seeing other shows, I managed to catch tranches of the other four.

Sometimes, with durational solos, the impact builds simply because the performer keeps going. But Obermayer entered her realm of challenges with a fabulous ground-plan - an intellectual maze, if you like - of associations where the role of the artist and the act of artistic creation was put up for scrutiny: separate the fact from fiction was the underlying mantra.

But fiction - like philosophy, like other genres - can be inspirational, and in any case, no performer can control what's in the mind of any observer.

Watching Obermeyer in a long black dress - reminiscent of the trailing skirts of Masha in The Seagull, in mourning for her life - drifting through the candle-lit mirk of Arch 6, repeatedly singing the same Mahler song (I am Lost to the World from Ruckert songs) is in itself exquisite, but for me it triggered memories of the late Peter Darrell's choreography and of absent friends.

Separate fact from fiction? Obermayer has me caught there, striving to be objective while in the meshes of subjective response.

Later in her piece, she assumes different personas and approaches before, finally, after a frenetic stint of dancing, she stands still and silent - totally owning our attention and the space. Your mind can't help but buzz with the implicit provocations she devises, not least because the space itself is reconfigured with each change of action and focus.

This is brave, fascinating, memorable work, and Obermayer is a fierce talent to watch out for.

Francesca Lacey's piece, Let's Not Talk About The Weather, gently asks us to question our own attitudes and assumptions about depression. Lacey has collected real-life material, and as we move from one station to the next we encounter six aspects of the isolation and despair that so many depressives strive to keep hidden away.

There's the lad, a mathematician, who obsessively types out equations based on the variable value of his mood - it never balances to the point where he goes out to meet friends.

A smiling girl can't bring herself to voice her innermost wishes - one of us has to relay her whispered words.

The whole space resonates with a rhythmic soundscape - murmuring voices, the click-clack of the typewriter, a little tinkly music box, all familiar and normal but, like the jokey interlude mid-way, not quite masking the anguish of depression. Lacey herself stands in a sparkly tunic on top of light boxes that spell out "happiness". Her invitation for us to write on them what makes us happy is a tender marker of how we're led to reflect on profound and serious issues without any heavy-handed or reproachful tub-thumping. It was a definite highlight, as was F/K/Alexander's durational performance, I Could Go On Singing with its clever evocation of Judy Garland and how her life became a hostage to one song, Over the Rainbow. Every time a punter hands her a ticket, Alexander's 'Judy' - in trademark sequin tuxedo, long legs and sparkly red shoes - has to sing "that song" to them.

By the nth reprise, it smacks of 'ten cents a dance' slavery, and how fame can shackle talent. All kinds of ramifications emerge, not least a sense of how the public can be tyrannical in adulation.

Other works were not nearly so strong, however. Kerry Macfarlane's anecdotal confessional about her obsession with an on-line fantasy war game, In another life, I'm an Elf, benefited from her bright, smiley personality, but the material was thin while cuteness sugared over the serious aspects of displacement activities.

And, sadly, the good intentions of two pieces aimed at young children and babies - Through Your Eyes (Emma Humphries) and Unfinished Place (Emily Magorrian) - didn't fully translate into the stuff that grabs young audiences in the real world.

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