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Two weeks into Glasgow’s ‘popular’ Festival and, well, some things are more popular than others. Fast-moving, controversial and widely-acclaimed African theatre falls into the category of less popular, it seems. The List correspondent and friend constituted one-third of the audience for the Zimbabwean theatre group Amakhosi at Springburn College. This was a particular disappointment for the group, who play regularly to huge community audiences back home.

Meanwhile, down the road, the less esoteric attractions of the self-styled ‘Big-nosed Bastard from Barking’, Billy Bragg, provided a much healthier turnout at the Pavilion, although even Billy was

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moaning about the poor attendance at his Barlinnie gig, where presumably the rival attractions of the B-Wing ping-pong tournament proved too tempting.

However, official sources suggest that these disappointments are merely what Nigel Lawson called ‘blips’. At the Mayfest office, Jackie Westbrook is fairly confident about the way things are going. Successes include Abbey Theatre, Hull Truck and 7:84 in the theatre programme, while on the music schedules, Lenny Kravitz and The Blues Brothers Band were sell-outs. Despite poor showings in previous Mayfests, this year’s comedy programme, ‘brought to you fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe’, has been going down reasonably well, with the Renfrew

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Ferry shows particularly popular. Even the innovative dance shows are doing reasonable business, good news in a field where you rarely have to share a row with other audience members. Wim Vandekeybus for one certainly seems to have touched some hitherto unknown part of the Glaswegian psyche.

Not that things are entirely rosy. In the general promotional frenzy of Mayfest, a few shows have been ignored. TAG’s hard-hitting children’s play Dancer was ‘criminally under-attended’, and PS 122 Field Trips an American avant-garde performance art piece breaking down the barriers between art forms didn’t exactly attract the Glaswegians in droves, or even couples. The WOMAD/Mayfest

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joint promotion of the music of the Frontline States looked set to be one ofthe highlights ofthe Festival. However, after a terrific opening show at the City Hall. audiences have tended to be erratic (with many an Edinburgh trendy frustrated by the late start times).

But as any Fringe-goer would tell you, when you‘re at the cutting edge of the arts, ten people is a crowd. and Mayfest seems to be doing well enough with its safe shows to be able to afford a few yawning spaces at the more adventurous pieces. Jackie Westbrook describes the situation as ‘swings and roundabouts.‘ ‘Obviously it's difficult to tell how things are going to go in the next two weeks, but at the moment we are on target.’ (Tom Lappin)

The List 18—31 May 199011