A question oftrust
As Glasgow University prepares t host Britain’s first-ever
International Festival of University ,
Theatre, James Blake tells the inside story, and wonders why it hasn’t happened before. Below and overleaf, we preview Glasgow’s contribution Trust Me, and some shows from further aﬁeld.
People don't trust students. That's the problem. There are no trusts or organisations in Scotland to fund student initiatives like the international Festival of University Theatre. and Glasgow University doesn‘t have enough resources to fund the Festival alone. When students here tried to set it up. they found a vicious circle waiting to trap them: no one was willing to give money because the Festival had not established a reputation; but it couldn‘t build up a reputation because no one would fund it. Over eighteen months. l.F.U.T. approached more than 1000 trusts and 500 companies and still got almost nowhere.
So what to do? A spark of respectability was needed; a name. perhaps — and what better name than Sean Connery? After the approaches had been made.
J Selzing the inspiration: Liege University Theatre
, Connery declared the Festival ‘a splendid and
5 original concept‘. and allowed his name to be given
l as patron. putting his trust in a student-led venture
l which stressed imilti-culturalism and anti-racism.
The Festival could go ahead.
lnterrmtionally. however. student theatre hasn't had these problems. in other countries. students don't carry the stigma that they do in Britain. and student work is often seen as the cutting edge of theatre. The Lithuanian Academyof Music. performing The Mask and The Asylum at l.F.U.T.. is one of the most renowned and avant garde theatre companies in its country. The Theatre of Paris Takopoulos. likewise. is reported to be ‘the greatest exponent ofGreek absurd theatre'.
Elsewhere in the world. student theatre has gained such a good reputation that intemational festivals of university theatre have become an institution. The first one was held in Erlangan in Germany in 194l. but it wasn't until I992 that any British company became involved, when Glasgow University's Natalie Wilson (now a trainee director with 7:84 Theatre Company) took a production of Scream to a festival in Liege. Belgium. Since then. student companies
from Glasgow University have performed at festivals in Morocco. Mexico. Belgium. France and Germany.
‘()ur first intention was to invite the countries which had hosted our past productions to our own festival.‘ explains Lisa Ball. co-ordinator of l.F.U.T. '95. Being on an international festival circuit is like buying rounds of drinks. You can go to other people’s festivals. but sooner or later your round is going to come up. Glasgow. as Britain’s only representative on the circuit. has ended up with a big round. it’s the first festival of its kind in Britain. bringing thirteen international companies to Scotland. and has cost over £40,000.
But l.F.U.T. is doing more than fulﬁlling Glasgow‘s obligations. It is a venture in multi-eultural understanding. The Festival should put Glasgow‘s student theatre on an international stage. l.F.U.T. representatives have spent the past six months visiting many festivals looking for wonderful. culturally diverse productions to invite to their own. Now it is established. the hOpe is that it will happen in Glasgow every year.
it‘s also an opportunity to develop social and business skills. it all began eighteen months ago with a group of student volunteers with no money and no reputation -nothing but an idea — but they were determined to dispel the myth of modern student apathy. As Lisa Ball puts it. ‘lfso-called Third World countries like Mexico and Morocco can produce a two-week festival which brings together companies from Kuwait and Iraq. then Britain can bloody well put on something for a week.’
And they‘ve done it. They‘ve got the reputation. the celebrities. the money. the accommodation. the catering. the companies. the venues. the club nights. the lights. the scenery and the action. Ladies and Gentlemen. the festival is coming to town.
The International Festival of University Theatre. various venues. Sun l—Sun 8 October. See apposite for details aj'a/l shows; and main theatre listtngsfor times and prices.
With the millennium just half a decade away, that fin de siécle feeling is everywhere you look. Theatre has dealt with it so far only in relatively obtuse ways, but Trust Me makes it explicit to the point of possible overload. Beginning and ending with an image of the sea, that scarin mysterious force we first crawled out of, it takes the audience on a voyage from early creation myths, through state-of-the-art images of our current state of confusion, to a more optimistic tuture vision: a multi- cultural tiesta.
‘lts main theme is trust, and what happens to that trust in a violent world,’ says Trust Me’s director Angeliki Kassola, a former Glasgow University student who began work on the proiect last October, after winning a fellowship to stay on for a year and produce a show. ‘We kind of used
ourselves as experiments in this, seeing how relationships in the group changed as we worked together more,’ she explains. ‘We also had to train ourselves physically.’
The whole performance will embrace an ambitious melee of styles and toms, including live music, dance, slides and film. All very exciting, but
interesting to see how the different media work in contrast and irony, it’s more important here tor them to work as a whole. The only fixed structure we started with was the cyclic thing that moved from birth to disjunction and complete disparity, to realisation and renewal.’ , And where does Kassola think the world’s at now, on this barometer of
' t order and chaos? ‘I think we‘re
Glasgow University In Trust Me! is there not a danger of a poor audience’s senses working overtime? ‘Although you have all these elements, they’re going in the direction of supporting the audience rather than confusing them,’ cpunters Kassola. ‘The slides retiect the text being spoken rather than juxtaposing it. Though I do think it would be
somewhere between complete depression and trying to make sense,’ she replies. ‘Things will get worse before they get better, though there’s a real sense of attitudes changing and infonnatlon being accessed more. The most important thing is to acknowledge the things that are going wrong, then find out what you can do. To use theatre to voice my concerns, politically and creatively, is very important. Just to have that dialogue with the audience. To make them feel that they’re not alone. That’s important too.’ (iieil cooper) 1iustMe,I.EiI.iZ '95, Dottie! Theatre, Glasgow, Sun 1 and Man 2 Oct.
The List 22 Sept-5 Oct l995 53