Arches Live! is now ended for another year - but not before some of the strongest shows in the two-week season arrived on-stage.
I doubt if anyone who entered into The 14 Stations of the Life and History of Adrian Howells will ever forget the intensity, the potentially unnerving honesty and intimacy, of this close encounter with Howells's personal litany of pain and suffering. His use of the devotional meditation, Christ's 14 Stations of the Cross, as a template for this one-to-one promenade through the lower reaches of the Arches might offend some people - but, in truth, the core strand of this journey is offence, given and taken.
As a gay man with transvestite inclinations Howells has, from boyhood, been on the receiving end of bullying, abuse and humiliation. Now, in his forties - and in this series of installations and interactions - Howells has a second "coming out". He frankly acknowledges the pain, embarrassment and emotional cruelty he has also inflicted on others. Each ticket holder becomes a witness or indeed a partner in the admission of guilty secrets, the ritual of confession. What keeps this from being self-indulgent, however, is Howells's ability to make this two-way sharing open-ended - to use his past behaviour, his memories and anecdotes, his current facing up to things he now regrets, as an invitation for us to examine our own conscience. Hard to believe this tremendously moving, imaginatively staged piece is a work-in-progress.
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Sin Piel is another work-in-progress but a glimpse of what Alex Rigg and his Oceanallover accomplices are up to makes you long to see more. The inspiration for Sin Piel (without skin) harks back to illustrations in sixteenth-century anatomy books, with Rigg himself getting "under the skin" of these images. This first part, played out in semi-darkness and garlanded with gorgeous flute and cello music (Marion Kenny and Joel Sanderson), found Rigg - body blackened and besmirched - burdened with a metal "coffin" that seemed symbolic of all life's challenges and constraints. Rigg's movements, his lean, wiry wrenchings and hunkerings, are resonant with humanity's hardships and resilience. Potent, poetic stuff.
Hammer and Tongs put a veritable spring in the step - for audiences and performers alike - as Ben Faulks delivered a lecture-demonstration on musical trampolining. Faulks is master of the believable spoof, the recital itself was a sly and mischievous delight as a stiff-legged quartet bounced, po-faced, through increasingly bizarre ditties. Can we have more of them please? Soon?
The Dream Life of Louise Michel was seething with far-ranging research on the nineteenth-century French activist, indeed almost falling over itself to whisk us inside her mind, her spirit, her times. But the hectic energy, the mercurial structure of rapid-fire associations, tended to show only the members of For We Are Many getting totally absorbed in a sub-text that meant something to them . . . but sadly didn't reach out to include the audience.
Supported by anCnoc.