Into the New

Pearce Institute, Govan

Mary Brennan

four stars

GOVAN'S Pearce Institute has once again opened its doors to Into the New. This annual showcase of work by graduating students – all from the Contemporary Performance Practice course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) – seems to thrive in the basic spaces of this building, its everyday rooms a hint, perhaps, of challenges that await beyond the purpose-built facilities at the RCS.

As ever, the programme is a mixed bag of styles, content and intentions – all geared, however, to challenging personal and creative boundaries. Rachel-Jane Morrison’s seven hour durational solo, If I could... was an intensely physical labour of love. Hour after hour, she dragged her beloved Gran’s weight (76kg) in coal to and fro, echoing the 8.5 miles between Kirkcaldy station and Gran’s house. Sweat, grime, unrelenting slog, all to a recurring loop of Gran’s gravelly voice saying: “I want you to be happy.” A seemingly simple concept, but determinedly complex in the emotions it celebrated. At 9pm, trudge ended, a weary Morrison phoned her Gran – and we heard, for real, their abiding kinship.

Students from Norway and Denmark brought their own kinship with nature into the building in three pieces that intertwined myth and mysticism with vivid, visual images and evocative soundscapes. Norwegian Marie Stork’s Majestree lured small groups into a wood-land nook where fairy-tale and folk wisdom carried life lessons and hearty hugs. Space of Eiris found Sunniva Eira Saetereng – also from Norway – and her three naked hand-maidens conjuring up a sense of antique ritual that spoke of meditation, heightened awareness and a mood of unity with the earth (underfoot) and the air all around, and in our lungs. Telling the Bees, devised by Maria Braender (Denmark) was an exquisite reminder of how much mankind depends on the bees that his very actions are endangering. Music, in song and on harp, underpinned sequences of movement reminiscent of the dances bees use to communicate with each other while the gorgeously costumed figure of a bee interacted dynamically with the men who should – in their bee-keepers garb – have been safeguarding the future for hives and humans alike. Epic and stunning.

The leftfield bobbydazzler that ended the four day event was Babes in the Wood, From Power to Pie. Could it be? Oh yes it was... a panto! Kieran McMath embraced one of the oldest – and earliest – forms of radical theatre, bringing together all the necessary elements of political satire, song’n’dance routines and cross-dressing in a ding-dong fracas between Good and Evil. The bad egg was Prime Minister Mareasa Tay, out to close down her twin sister’s Panto-land High School and impose, instead, a return to the crammer-grammers of yore. Hiss boo! Can Fairy Nicola stop twirling long enough to save the day? And what – or who – becomes pure mince in a pie? With an affectionate nod in the direction of great Dame and panto-writing whizz, Johnny McKnight, this gem of crafty hilarity was actually gags ahead of many recent commercial offerings while McMath himself cross-dressed and quick-changed with comic aplomb as both leading ladies. Great support from a cast of other students and a resourceful piano-man. Can you play it again, please?