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South of the Clyde, they’re getting virtual in a new experiment involving artists from different disciplines. Agent Neil Cooper lowers his visor and takes a Closer look.
Technical hitches. like musical differences. are forever being cited as an excuse to call the whole thing off. Robert Lepage‘s recent humiliation by gadgetry »- which led to the cancellation of his eagerly awaited Elsinore at the Edinburgh International Festival — is one very expensive example. begging the question why no one thought to pack a spare. Similarly. on the Fringe. Zaoum had to lower their sights and pack up their videos when they discovered the car park they were to perform in boasted just two electric sockets.
Now Theatre Works — a government-funded company based at Govan initiative. which employs unemployed local actors on a one-year contract ~ has combined with Durham Theatre Company and digital artist Anton llecht to produce a state-of-the-art. hi- tech ‘performance installation‘. which not only includes input from actors and assorted visual artists. but also embraces a technique called ‘lnverse Filming.‘ This is where — as the press release explains — ‘a film is made of multiple interactive environments all shot from “point of view". This is played back to an audience on monitors and to a viewer through the eyepiece of a camera. The viewer
repeats what they see and moves around the room in real time and space but feels as though they are part of Video World as it is played back through the eyepiece.‘
Chuck in a quartet of ‘Sensateers‘ - doppelgr’ingers of Robert De Niro. Janet Leigh. Liza Minnelli and Fred Astaire — and the whole thing comes over as part theme park. part MTV with an experimental slant. Got that? No'.’ Well. let the people who are putting the blessed thing on enlighten you.
‘Wc're trying to explore the relationship between the visual arts and the theatrical arts.‘ says Catriona Macphie. director of the Theatre Works arm of the operation. in this way the forrn we're working with is more important than any end product. What we‘re interested in is how you realise something that isn‘t text-led; and how do you introduce something to an audience which doesn‘t have anything superimposed on it by us as directors."
Not exactly a well made play then? ‘lt‘s more an attempt to rediscover theatricality.‘ according to Cliff Burnett. artistic director of Durham Theatre Company. ‘As theatre practitioners we have two responsibilities: one to the audience. the other to the form. Over the last twenty years there‘s been a deterioration of that in the wake of post-Thatcher culture. so a lot of performers resist exploring form. ()ne of the things that have emerged in the last ten
Theatre Works: the human element years is combined arts.‘ he goes on. ‘The danger with that is there‘s a traditional pyramidal structure, with everything serving the text. Choreographers. dancers. visual artists. whoever‘s involved. they all want to keep their integrity too.'
The danger — or not — of such an egalitarian approach is sensory overload. Yet Brith Gof. the Wooster Group. and the aforementioned Monsieur Lepage — all of whom Macphie enthusiastically cites as influences — have found an audience willing to accept performances as explosive as they are wilfully devoid of linear narrative. All very trendy. but as Macphie says. ‘they‘re far more exciting than anything in conventional theatres.‘
To this end. Video World will occupy an art gallery space in Glasgow‘s decidedly boho King Street. Performances will take place twice daily. though the gallery remains open throughout the day for potential participants to interact. Fear not. though. for this is no highbrow head-wank. ‘My simple criticism ofa lot of what passes for “performance art" is that it‘s inaccessible.’ says Burnett. ‘Video World is. it's accessible post-modemism.‘ Anything else? ‘It's fun.‘ There. That wasn‘t difficult at all. was it? (Neil Cooper)
Video World. Theatre Winks/Durham Theatre Company. I 8 King Street. Glasgow, Mon 9—30! [4 Sept; their touring.
Danger- Dane at work
it’s not been easy getting hold oi John Hetallack, who tor the past seven years has been artistic director oi the Oxiord Stage Company. On the iirst leg oi a nationwide tour, he’s obviously a busy man. When contact is iinally made he’s In a phone booth somewhere in Arundel, in the middle oi what sounds like a building site. ‘li you saw where I’m standing . . .’ he says with a laugh. As It on cue, someone nearby starts hammering nails while another picks up with a saw.
Trying to ignore the din, I ask him about Hamlet, the ilrst oi three productions Scotland can expect this
test In line: Ian Pepperell as Hamlet
season - provided Robert lepage’s widgets don’t let him down again when Elsinore returns to Scotland.
Hetallack is co-directing Hamlet with Karl James as 080’s tenth Shakespeare production since 1989. This collaboration, continued after last year’s successiul Tivelfth Night, emphasises a Hamlet tor the 90s, a 21 - year-old prince in modern dress, the student who returns irom university to be conironted by the hideous realities oi modern klngshlp.
‘Sometlmes you get a moment when you really want to do a play,’ explains Hetallack. ‘Wlth so much going on with the monarchy and the question oi what will come oi It, it seems relevant. With Hamlet you think that maybe he’s going to be that thinking prince that we haven’t got with the Windeors, someone who would really dynamite what the monarchy should become In the next millennium.’
0i course it all goes wrong - In the end revenge comes uppermost. But Charles is hardly going to run amok in the palace like Hamlet. To draw a parallel seems quite dangerous.
‘Well,’ counters itetallack, ‘you've got to remember that it’s about a prince who’s the last In line. So we’ve expressed a lot about that which is applicable and relates, but it’s not a gimmicky production. it’s also like a modern American revenge movie [Reservoir Dogs springs to mind - plenty oi corpses] where It's quite nonnai tor people to shoot each other. it is about guns and death, and that's how Hamlet discovers the Renaissance killer that's in him. In the end his investigation oi man Is made by having to examine the nature oi revenge.’ (Marc Lambert)
Harriet, (Mord Theatre Carmen], Macliobert Art Centre, Stirling, Tire iii-Set 14 Sept.
The List 6-l9 Sept I996 81