On the map. Point ofStoer is a jag in the ﬂinty outline ofthe Sutherland coast. Far in the north-west. it gestures further north. the eye following its finger out into the blue. In Edinburgh. half a mile from the mazy waterways of l.eith docks. the wood-lined studio of artists Robert Callender and Elizabeth ()gilvie lies beached up a back lane.
The one is echoed in the other. Built like a boat. the studio pays a salty. tar-crusted homage to the artists‘ more remote retreat. Stacked against the studio walls are ()gilvie‘s painstaking close-up drawings. mirroring the shape and sheen of a windowsill full of west coast pebbles. On the floor rocks a black hull. one ofCallender‘s crafty lightweight replicas of the harsh reality.
Shaped by the sea. the art of Callender and ()gilvie has in turn inspired an ambitious dance-theatre performance which will be premiered at the St Bride‘s (‘entre in Edinburgh next week. Dance innovators. The Kosh. poet Roger McGough. composer l loward .l. Davidson. the Scottish (‘hamber Orchestra. three actors. a soprano and eleven local dancers are all putting theiroar in. Since .lanuary. the creative team have pooled their ideas. communicating them by cassette and video-tape between London and Edinburgh. .\‘ow. in a final concentrated two weeks of rehearsal. the images. sounds and movements are being stitched and welded together. ready for the launching of ‘Waving Al The 'I‘ide' —- and all who sail in her.
The Kosh are used to working with a motley crew. Since their formation in 1983 the group have left the safe harbour ofthe neatly-delineated dance world to create collaborative works ofdance-theatre which are much tnore than the sum of their parts. Their horizons have never been broader than for this project. ‘Waving At The 'l‘ide‘. punts their press release. "represents the biggest
G'I‘he List 8— 2] December 1989
creative collaboration ever undertaken. and one which will carry the company across four continents over the next three years.‘ The three
dates at St Brides are only the
i springboard to something
For the project‘s catalysts. ('allender and ()gilvie. the process of communicating a personal inspiration and watching it develop under other bands has not been entirely painless. Words like ‘compromise’ and ‘amalgamation‘ pepper their conversation. The
excitementof working with new 2' media and materials. the buzz of the
unexpected. have been balanced by
the absence of an overview. the loss of the all-important last-minute tweaking and smoothing which the
Like a leftover from Lilliput. a little model ofthe St Bride‘s interior sits amid the industrial debris in their ships chandler of a studio. Scraps of cloth and string suggest the 30 foot lengths ofcloth which will billow above the heads of the performers and their promenading audience. A live performance offers the excitement of an installation very much in motion: ‘We‘re keen to lower sails. block offdifferent areas.
Waving at the Tide is an ambitious and innovative theatre project involving The Kosh, Roger McGough. a composer. and an orchestra. Julie Morrice investigates.
E TIDE IS NIGH
raise booms.‘ says ()gilvie. "They won‘t be like set-changes; the performers will do it as part of the performance.‘ Moving beyond the type of interaction offered by her gallery constructions ofwafting fronds of acetate. ‘Waving At The 'I‘ide‘ will introduce an active human presence onto the unfootprinted sand ongilvie‘s work. The Kosh‘s director. Michael Merwitzer. talked The Kosh in pertormance (main picture),
Robert Callender (above) and Elizabeth Ogilvie (right) at work in the studio.
ofspringing off from the relationship between man and the elements ‘to start thinking about huge subjects: chance and destiny and fate. We‘re using the sea as a metaphor. placing humanity in this atmosphere of unpredictability.‘
Three weeks prior to the launch Callender senses a charge of energy: ‘lt‘s real now. There‘s no more videos and playing about with bits of dowelling.‘ The scale of the piece appeals to both artists. It reminds Callender of the revels at Edinburgh Art School during the Sixties, when studio work would stop for six weeks and the whole building would be transformed. For ()gilvie it complements her current project — an 80ft etching for Aberdeen railway station. Picturing the piece in life size. however. Callender worries about space at St Bride‘s and hankers after a less formal venue. Counteracting his carping. Ogilvie evokes encouraging sea pictures. likening the ribbed wooden ceiling of the converted church to an enormous upturned boat.
Standing beneath that inverted ark. Michael Merwitzer is looking cold. He has just met with the Scotland-based dancers and handed out tapes of Howard Davidson‘s score and copies of Roger McGough‘s specially-written verse. The islands of activity are converging. After months of administration. Merwitzer is looking forward to rehearsals. and to providing ‘that external eye‘ which will make sense ofthe amalgamation. He expresses none of the doubts which have given Callender and Ogilvie sleepless nights. Uncertainty is clearly something he thrives on: ‘ifyou don‘t take risks. you end up standing still.” In fact. he thinks. the collaboration has gone very smoothly: ‘Occasionally I have to unruffle feathers.‘ he smiles. ‘but I‘m truly diplomatic.‘
Experienced as cultural ambassadors (they recently won the dance award at the Cairo Alternative Theatre Festival) The Kosh plan to tour ‘Waving At The Tide‘ to Liverpool. the South Bank. different Scottish cities and other unspecified destinations. (Tokyo and Barcelona are mentioned en passant). The performance may have its roots in Scotland. but as it travels it will take other cultures on board. involving local dancers in every port ofcall.
For Merwitzer. Scotland is simply somewhere he enjoys working: ‘I like the idea ofshifting resources from London.‘ he says. ‘and it‘s easy: the orchestra wanted to do it. the artists were here. And Scotland is the place we‘ve done most work over the years. This is a large-scale experiment — you want to try that
where you‘ve got friends.‘
For Callender and Ogilvie. it is much more. ‘It would be great to do it with a Scottish-based group and poet.‘ says Callender. It is the local experience which fuels their work: ‘People say it doesn‘t matter what beach you‘re on. But it does.‘ Waving at the Tide is at Edinburgh '5 St Bride '5 Centre Thursday I4—Sarurday 16 December.