Take Me Somewhere


three stars

Tron, Glasgow

The Ballad of the Apathetic Son and his Narcissistic Mother

four stars


three stars


four stars

Tramway, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

IN 2015, the Arches suddenly closed after the loss of its late-night licence. To say that the arts community in Glasgow was left harrowed and bereft is still something of an understatement. The Arches had, for some 25 years, been the go-to venue for radical performance work that was often hard to niche in existing genres, a place where artists – some local, some international, some already established, others new to the challenge – were allowed to take creative risks. The very real fear was that all this astutely curated energy would go elsewhere, possibly vanish altogether. However former Arches artistic director Jackie Wylie wasn’t inclined to let that left-field legacy go, and now Take Me Somewhere has come into being as a celebratory festival-cum-hommage to the Arches, by taking live performance out across the city.

When Andy Arnold was head honcho at the Arches, he enjoyed luring audiences into the dank, neglected corners not usually open to the public. Now artistic director at the Tron, he revisited the thrill of unlikely spaces with Nowhere, a wily promenade into the dark recesses of the theatre’s back-stage realm. Up stairs, down corridors we went, ushered through an unfamiliar gloom by guides costumed like sprites from a DaDa-esque carnival. Curiouser and curiouser... Why was a man in pyjamas trapped in a lift, doomed to chill listeners with his nightmarish narrative? Who were the players performing in a pitch-black room, heard by us but not seen. Would the writer ever get words on paper when his pencil kept disappearing and reappearing as if by magic? Could any of those we spied on see us, as they spoke of bleak forebodings, or burbled of the voices that were in their head? It all reeked, with a roguish mix of whimsy and intellect, of theatre, illusion and imagination – ours, as well as theirs and never more so than in the final on-stage flourish, a showing of Beckett’s Breath. Arnold, as bowler-hatted MC, teased us to find meaning in Nowhere: what an absurd prankster he is.

Three other productions over the weekend took to the stage at Tramway. 21CC, an artist collective with its origins in the Arches, brought us The Ballad of the Apathetic Son and his Narcissistic Mother, a fabulous rollercoaster outpouring of the love and turmoil that ramps through a mother and son relationship. The Mother is Lucy Gaizely (37) and the Son is Raedie Gaizley-Gardiner (14). What do they share, apart from CVs that include previously performing at the Arches – Raedie made his debut there, aged 2. They both love the singer Sia, to the extent that they appear before us – on-screen and in the flesh – in the platinum wigs and flesh-coloured leotards that Maddie Ziegler wears in Sia’s videos. They even have those video dance routines mastered down to the last kick and tussle of Electric Heart, Chandelier and more.

Underneath this hugely entertaining, hi-energy prowess is something very deep and personal, laid out before us with such unflinching honesty it stirs your own memories and tears. Lucy can’t help but see Raedie as an extension of herself, and indeed their teenage behaviour patterns have a “like mother, like son” waywardness. But as Raedie makes clear, in a direct-to-audience monologue, he is already his own man, and maybe not everything he does fits in with Lucy’s wish-projection of him. She questions her parenting skills, he passes judgement on her attitudes. They pare away so many hurtful layers you fear for their relationship, until you realise how intensely they’re bonded, their lives and hearts interlocked. Her challenge is to let go and let him be. His final Sia solo, alone on-stage, does them both proud.

A powerful nod towards the international programming that was a strong part of Arches seasons arrived with Guerrilla (El Conde de Torrefiel from Spain) and # negrophobia (Jaamil Olawale Kosoko from America).

Local volunteers fed elements of their own family history into the surtitles that spooled across the three sections of Guerrilla. Those same volunteers were also the silent masses who delivered the three episodes of everyday life in (apparently) 2019: a literary conference, a Tai Chi lesson and a night-club rave. Above their heads Pablo Gisbert’s text was spelling out the build up, and aftermath, of a global war in 2023. If recent events – Brexit, the ascendance of Trump to the US Presidency, the civil wars erupting across the Middle East – lend a tang of possibility to Gisbert’s dystopian fantasy, what ultimately aims to leave audiences uneasy is our willingness to boogie on down the primrose path to the end of Western civilisation as we know it. History repeats itself, says that ribbon of words, while you’re busy never being bored even if – as some-one’s grandfather asserts – doing nothing allows time for thinking. And what of art? Can’t art provide a wake-up call? One surtitle nails that one: “When the art world starts taking the p**s, there’s going to be a bloodbath.”

For Jaamil Olawale Kosoko that bloodbath is already happening on the streets where he lives: the fallen are those black men who suffer, often fatally, at the hands of white American racists. For Kosoko, this is gut-wrenching and personal. Never more so than when he steps into his dead brother’s shoes and conjures up the stereotypes of black men – among them the boxer, the rapper in a hoodie, the convict, the insatiable “stud” – that are mythic totems of fear and loathing to many white Americans. While Kosoko reads his own poetry and enacts these black and white instances of prejudice, the high-heeled, scantily-clad figure of model IMMA is stalking him with a camera, reinforcing the sense of black men always being under the watchful scrutiny of a society that views them with suspicion. As the air fills with incense, and Kosoko morphs his inner pain and loss into rituals of injustice and survival, you know where this valiant, powerfully articulate man is coming from. The question that’s left unanswered is: what are you thinking, and doing about, the issues he embodies. A quintessential Arches experience, but sadly its run is ended. Take Me Somewhere, however, continues until March 11.