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The Scottish Chamber Orc ambitious, innovative and exciting work. Their latest project is a multi- media collaboration involving artists, dancers, composers and musicians working around the themes of Birth, Marriage and Death. Fiona
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Shepherd previews Rites.
and think - why?
The Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s affiliate composer James MacMillan once spoke in a separate context of a ‘reservoir of shared experience’ which could well be applied to Rites, a for-one-night-only. multi-media presentation at Glasgow’s Briggait Centre. This new project takes the ritualistic elements
mere list of people who’ve extended their issue, couples who’ve just celebrated their nuptials, strangers who’ve shufﬂed off this mortal coil. all set down in black and white. Not a right riveting read. But just watch those eyes assiduously scouring the ‘births, marriages and deaths’ columns of newspapers
of those three strands of human experience and filters them through a creative kaleidoscope. The project has resulted in six new distinct commissions. Each of the three sections has been interpreted by an artist and a composer working in tandem; each will be drawn together and explored in movement by Jigsaw Dance Theatre. the special needs company who participated in Brith Gof’s similarly mixed- media Pax. ‘The main stimulus in each area has come from the artist.’ explains Cheryl Strong. Jigsaw’s choreographer. fixture so we can use that as a catalyst for my dancers in each section. None of the artists are theatre designers: they are artists in a true
‘lt’s a permanent
‘lt’s the music that’s creating the dynamic. and the visuals are obviously going to create the atmosphere behind that.’ adds Chick Lyall. who has composed the music for the 'Death’ portion. and will be conducting the SCO for part of the performance. ‘There’s going to be an element of chance in the whole thing, to use a John Cage expression. Put the three things together and you could end up producing
‘It’s like entering a gallery that has music to it and the dancers are the mobile art.’ Cheryl Strong, choreographer.
something that’s greater than the sum of the
'Wc’ve had to throw a lot in the bin,’ continues Cheryl. ‘to make sure that we don’t gorge the audience. give them so much that they suffocate because you’ve got art, dance, movement, music. We wanted to break down barriers, so we’re not going to conform to the proscenium arch. The audience are on promenade so they can choose to focus on a certain area. It’s leaving as much decision to them as possible.’
The decision to forage fora deeper meaning is also left to the audience. The contributors feel they’re making statement enough with the spectacle of their interlocking media. With this production. what you see is what you get. ‘There’s nothing profound to be said.’ asserts Keith McIntyre. responsible for the visual art input to the ‘Marriage’ section. ‘lt’s actually just a lot of fun, almost a chimps’ tea party.’
However, the focal participation of a company like Jigsaw lends a greater poignancy. ‘There’s a very patronising view about special needs performance groups. We feel reassured to see disabled people taking part in arts performance. What attracts me to this company is the fact that they really work close to the edge. Here they’ll be engaged in the only real ritual that is common throughout the world. marriage and copulation — activities this company of people are often not allowed to engage in — and performing it in a very black, humoristic way.’
Hard though it is to envisage just how the creative elements will interlock. Cheryl hits on a possible analogy. ‘It’s like entering a gallery that has music to it and the dancers are the mobile art.’
Rites, The Briggait, Glasgow. 24 March. See Music listings for further details.
Rites: A Guided Tour
Composer: William Sweeney
Artist: Johnnie McCulness
Cheryl: “What Johnnle’s excited about is this miracle that goes on during conception, the genes and the chromosomes and how It comes together. Because his artwork looks
I like the microscopic torm we took that
idea on and we are the organisms under the microscope. The audience could actually be inside a womb along with us.’
Composer: Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ ‘An Orkney Wedding With Sunrise’, adapted with his permission.
Artist: Keith McIntyre
Keith: ‘There will be a massive least, but the whole thing’ll be painted, like a trompe l’oell sheet and the
characters will have painted costumes, so that when they assemble into the tableau they become like a jigsaw puzzle that has to be seen from a particular vista to work. Imagine it you were to put 20 kids in a room with fancy-dress clothes and said “create your own wedding” - this is what they’d come up with.’
Composer: Chick Lyall
Artist: Stuart Mackenzie
Chick: ‘The dancers will be involved in
a ritual thing dancing around a 20-foot totem. Stuart’s going to prolect images onto the walls, and what I’ve done is go for broke, and over and above the orchestra l’ve decided to write electronic music and pertorm with synthesisers.’
Cheryl: ‘Cur main images are soil and spades. Stuart liked the idea that a spade buries you but It can also be used to plant new life. it’s trying to push away the tear of death, to realise that you might be passing on to another world.’
14 The List 12 —25 March 1993