Scotch hop

Paisley Arts Centre has made the bold move of commissioning pieces from two of Scotland’s brightest young dance companies. Tamsin Grainger talks to Steve Slater about shifting the creation of new work away from Scotland‘s major cities.

Steve Slater, latterly Nikki Milican‘s side-kick at the Third Eye Centre. was appointed as Programme Co-ordinator at Paisley Arts Centre this April and he‘s nurturing great plans for the place. ‘Renfrew District Council and PAC have meandered along for a number of years as a receiving house for touring theatre shows,’ he says. ‘It has been very well run. but there haven’t really been any risks with the programming. Now there‘s no pressure on me financially. so I can concentrate on developing and raising the profile to make a more creative centre.‘ He plans to do this with dance, which is a pretty radical thing to do

in Scotland.

Interestingly, Slater‘s background is in performance art rather than dance, beginning at the Zap Club in Brighton before he was whisked away by by Milican to these northern climes. Four New Moves Dance Festivals and several Reviews of Live Art later, it is surprising to find him saying that this latest job suits his aims almost perfectly. ‘The way the Third Eye was programmed omitted a great number of people and I really wanted a policy whereby all art is seen on the same level,‘ he explains. So now he‘s programming children‘s puppet shows alongside wacky Scottish video-dance group Randomoptic. and doesn‘t think it will alienate his audience.

‘They’re easy and they‘re not.‘ he says about Randomoptic which kicks of Hop Scotch, Slater‘s first season of specially commissioned dance. ‘They always struck me as a company willing to try quite diverse ideas which, I admit, don‘t always come off, but the way they perform is much more accessible than some other companies I could think of , and there is this tendency to experiment which makes them different.’

The company is working with over 30 teenagers,


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Randomoptic: ‘wllling to try quite diverse Ideas'

making a performance based on video footage shot by Katrina McPherson, a founder member of the group, and eight young people. The live performance, like the video, takes place both inside and outside; the audience being led out of the converted church into its neighbouring grave-yard and beyond. The changes of location emphasise the production’s exploration of three types of space: one empty (the stage), the second full (a shopping centre) and a third transitional space where people travel from one place to



another (such as a street). Slater and the company hope that the use of familiar places will appeal to a broad local audience and in particular will attract young people. One of the locations, for example, is a new shopping centre in Paisley where, during the shooting, passers-by stopped to ask what was happening. ‘Everyone‘s really fascinated by it,‘ says McPherson enthusiastically, ‘and it’ll feature in the show. Rather than swooping in and then straight out again, we are here for a while, resident in the community.’

The second company Slater has commissioned to make a new work is Life Dance aka Rona Simpson and Alex Rigg- whom he viewed at New Moves 92 and describes as ‘fantastic, it just looked so beautiful. The choroegraphy is quite different and after hearing that they had no future plans to perform I wanted them to continue, so stepped in and offered money to make the new show.‘ The brief, as it is for Randomoptic, is open. ‘I‘m not particularly worried if the idea is half-formed,’ he admits, ‘the input is there to support them and give them another stepping stone to the next show.‘

Here’s where the PAC dance programme stands apart from the rest. There is not only a commitment to risk-taking Scottish contemporary dance, but also real money to back it up. In addition, the facilities at Paisley Arts Centre are quite something. The depth ofthe stage area has

“‘There is a commitment to risk-taking

Scottish contemporary dance, and real money to back it up.’

just been extended to allow for more dynamic dance, and Randomoptic has been able to work on both the choreography and video parts of Round Up, the new show, in tandem something that has been impossible in the past thanks to the video editing suite upstairs at the Centre. And it works both ways, with Slater encouraging his technician to light the show so that she can also put her creative talents to use.

As ifthis isn‘t all astonishing enough at a time when Scottish dance is being shoddily treated, Slater is talking about collaborating with other venues to tour the companies that he commissions. Most, if not all, of the groups are homeless and find it tough to finance administrative staff, so help of this kind will be invaluable. He hopes that other arts centres will take a leaf out of his book and also commission such work. ‘Whether it will ever work I’m not sure,‘ he admits, ‘but you have to place those challenges on yourself and on peOple who come into the Centre.’

Round-up, Paisley Arts Centre, Fri 1 7Jul.

I Wooldrldgo to go Ian Wooldridge has announced that he is to end his nine-year reign as Artistic Director at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum when the forthcoming season ends

in April 1993. During his stay, the theatre has built up one of the best attendance rates in Britain and undergone a major upgrading of its front-of-house and behind-the-scenes facilities. Wooldridge

feels it is time to move on, of Tankred Dorst’s

but promises his best Merlin.

season yet in a run that I Handel: renamed includes productions of Mandela Theatre

Tom McGrath’s Laurel Company, which has built and Hardy, Shakespeare‘s up a follOWing for its

The Taming of the Shrew, punchy, physical Goldoni’s Mirandolina productions of

and the second instalment contemporary plays, has

changed its name to sitcom reworking of his Boilerhouse Theatre Traverse hit Dead Dad Company. Under this Dog goes out on SW on

name, it is performing Tuesday 28 July. Now

Paula Macgee’s Play, called My Dead Dad , the Boy! in this year’s show stars Forbes Masson Edinburgh Fringe. and Roy Hanlon and was I Dud Bid on TV The first previewed in The List at episode of John McKay’s Christmas.


The List 17-30 July 1992 39