Into the New

Pearce Institute, Govan

Mary Brennan

Four stars

From the first show of my day, Corrie McKendrick’s interactive treat for under-fives, through to the final blitzkrieg of music, costume and performance by Nima Seme in ICHI PINKS trulove, this was Into the New on a roll. Bereft of the Arches, this annual showcase of work by graduating students – all from the Contemporary Performance Practice course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – followed the example of Buzzcut festivals and installed itself at the Pearce Institute.

On paper, McKendrick’s The BIG Adventure boils down to a vast array of cardboard boxes, two bouncy performers (each hidden inside a box) and some local nursery tots: seems simple. In fact, his intuitive understanding of child’s play – the curious intrigue of peek-a-boo surprises, the irresistible appeal of drumming on a cardboard box – makes for a subtly sophisticated progression of looking, listening and joining-in. Unexpected noises off keep everyone on alert. Wallop! the cardboard wall we’d all assumed was scenery tumbles down to reveal – other wee weans in a mirror group of us. Whee – all together now, for more of the hands-on stuff that adults tag as a "learning curve" but tinies know better as "fun".

There are flies on Nima Seme. Glitteringly ornate flies on a huge, swaying carnival head-dress that hints of Rio even as her performative persona, her songs and poetics smack of other cultures, with a nod towards Berlin cabaret. It’s loud – the backing musicians make sure of that – but lyrics are rooted in the politics of identity, colour and gender and her Beige Bitch is a fierce provocateur on all fronts.

David Gillan hoodwinked us with affable charm in The Magic of Reality. Yes, he kept telling about the power of perception – emphasised how our choices are influenced without us noticing – but still we fell for his cunning sleight of hand, and his deft conjuring with the psychology of our susceptibilities. Before this, we’d gone to a funeral. Joanne Sharp had mustered the women of her immediate family - ages ranging from 11 to 71 – so as they could mourn her, albeit under her direction. Mischievously funny, but the humour was a way of exploring similarities and differences of experience and opportunity across generations with Sharp’s relatives an on-stage resource many would envy – you soon see where she got her dramatics from!

Meanwhile, in a small upstairs room, Will Stringer was sharing bread-making with one participant at a time. We both kneaded dough in a companionable, far-reaching exchange of thoughts and anecdotes. Age-old rituals, contemporary reflections: I left with a loaf, and food for thought.