2009. And that’s the occasionally opportune, sometimes exasperatingly disruptive rumbling of the overhead trains as they chank in and out of nearby Glasgow Central Station. Other than that, it’s open season in terms of expectations: your imagination is up for grabs, and your emotions too, as one show after another goes in search of the raw, the rough and the complex elements in our relationship with life and other people.

HITCH, Star rating: ****

Keiran Hurley keeps referencing the issues and actualities of G8 summits past and present in Hitch but even though he is intent on hitch-hiking to L’Aquila to join in the protests there, his solo emerges as an uplifting diary of the kindness of strangers. True, some of his travelling companions are oddballs, often with forcefully held views on politicians, capitalism and the future of the planet. Hurley gives them ‘their’ voices in differently, distinctively accented monologues, before reflecting on how each of them is contributing to a personal journey which goes well beyond the distance of mere miles.

Now, Hitch could probably have held our interest simply on the strength of Hurley himself. He’s affable, engaging and spins a good yarn. But you could say he goes the extra mile, involving nicely integrated video footage and in true road movie fashion, enjoying a soundtrack, by live duo Over the Wall, that played in a fine sense of the shifting moods and growing determination that took Hurley to the ultimate camraderie he finds in reaching L’Aquila.

CHIP, Star rating: ****

We all know that WC Fields warned off fellow thesps from sharing a stage with children and animals. Parents could maybe join that list, especially if they turn out to be such genial personalities as Jess Thorpe’s dad, Tim. Frankly, this could have been a toe-curling hour, with father and daughter going all molasses-mushy on us or else hauling out too much dirty linen. But Jess Thorpe and her colleague Tashi Gore have spent the past five years devising work that is rooted in people’s life histories and memories and this expertise – like the loving, teasing, unshakeable bond between Jess and Tim – shines through in every phase of Chip.

A good many folk were reduced to tears by the unadorned honesty of some exchanges, especially when it came to Tim’s list of things he’d like to apologise to Jess for – a list that followed on from his frank musings on his own dad’s good and not so good points, and how that had influenced Tim’s vision of what kind of parent he wanted to be. This might seem the stuff of reality/confessional TV shows but the difference lay in the conscientious structuring and juxstaposing of material. And even though some of the loveliest banter did seem off the cuff, this wasn’t your ‘let it all hang free’ kind of mash up: it was, instead, a caringly devised celebration of the extraordinary forces that underpin ordinary family relationships.

PICTURES OF HEAVEN, Star rating: ****

Pictures of Heaven was another work – written by Catriona Easton and directed by Harry Wilson – that was profoundly affecting in the way it evoked memories and the shades of past lives. The text was beautifully tailored, never overstated, but with a wistful poetic air that the live fiddle music (played by Becky Leach) caught and echoed. The ‘pictures’ went beyond words, however. A large sheet of plate glass – a shop window? a photographer’s lens? a picture frame? – served to freeze re-enacted moments, flash up captions of encounters spoken of but not seen, while a totally beguiling use of ice-skating footage spun us inside the carefree, dance-y time when a married couple re-discovered, on a main street in full daylight!, the sheer joy of their togetherness. Polished, but gentle and un-showy with it, Pictures of Heaven was an epic production in an a wee, intimate space.

Naomi and Thom Go on a NIght out, Star rating: **

Naomi and Thom Go on a Night Out is a really promising work in progress where they risk knock-backs, not just in looking for a date in club-land, but in their deliberate, provocative acts of intimacy with unsuspecting audience members. It falters and loses momentum but Naomi Shoba and Thom Scullion are the kind of charismatic performers who ensure that Arches Live! really does have a buzz about it.