Best known for street theatre with Mischief La Bas, Glasgow-based performer IAN SMITH turns horny monster for his new show Bulll. Words: Andrew Burnet
Is performance art a load of bollocks‘.’ In the case of Bit/ll. the answer is a resoundineg bellowed YES. Billed as ’a celebration of testosterone‘. Bull! is a guided tour through the maze of male stereotypes. and even includes a lecture on those twin kernels of masculinity that dangle between a gentleman’s thighs.
Loosely modelled on the myth of the Minotaur. Bull.’ is staged in the labyrinthine passageways of (ilasgow’s Tramway. and will lead audiences into corners of the building never open to the public before. It’s a unique opportunity: this co—production will be the final performance in the city’s most idiosyncratic venue before it closes for major refurbishment.
The steering force behind Bull! is Ian Smith. best known as the leader of Glasgow’s madcap street- performance group Mischief La Bas. ‘This is a very experimental piece of work.‘ he warns. ‘very unlike the work that our reputation might suggest. Our street theatre is in a humorous vein. very immediate and accessible. In this instance. I’m kind of reverting back to some of my darker performance art roots. that I was heavily involved with in the early 80s — and bringing everyone along with me into the soup.’ he adds with a chuckle.
Smith’s strategy is to fill Tramway’s hidden reaches with a beefy stew of performances and installations created by a herd of different breeds. The result is a variety of flavours. ‘I gave various artists a brief to undertake one aspect of the legend and explore it in their own style.’ explains Smith. ’A lot of solo performance artists employ what I call “the
'The Minotaur has always fascinated me as a symbol of masculinity. It's animalistic and brutal - a monstrous image of the masculine male.’ Ian Smith
Rampaging bull: Mischief La Bas stalwart Kevin Kelly
medium of tedium” — it seems there’s a prerequisite for it to last an hour. and often I think people lose the immediacy of doing something quite short.’
Smith likens Bull! to 99p sampler albums released in the 70s. If one part of the tour doesn’t appeal. something different will be along in a few minutes. ‘Accessibility is one of my key notes.’ he promises.
Among those taking part are Manchester’s Divine David. who portrays a slouch potato too lazy to bring home the bacon. and Dublin’s Paul Johnson. who takes a contrasting role: the downtrodden worker who struggles against an unyielding burden. Famed monologuist Ken Campbell contributes a video explaining his theories of parallel reality and ever- present choice: while New York’s celebrated ’drag king’ Diane Torr takes a cod- academic peek inside the codpiece.
Meanwhile. Mischief La Bas — which performed a frivolous ‘Bull Ballet’ as part of Glasgow's Mayday celebrations this year — takes a turn for the darker in three Taurean tableaux.
For his own contribution. Smith corrupts the Minoan legend of hairy monsters and super Greeks. In the original. the Minotaur was a wild beast imprisoned in the Labyrinth and fed with virgins. until Theseus. armed with a sword and a ball of wool. slew him. In Smith’s version. it’s not quite so clear- cut. ‘We kind of debunk the figure of Theseus as a hero.’ he says. ‘Maybe these shining examples are fraudulent. and not what we should be aspiring to.’
Smith takes the role of the horny hybrid. opening the show with a radio broadcast from within the Labyrinth. ‘The Minotaur has always fascinated me as a symbol of masculinity.’ he explains. ‘It’s animalistic and brutal. but it also strikes me as a good image for the bad press men get for those very attributes — a monstrous image of the masculine male.’
Sympathy for the man-bull: now that’s lad culture with real balls.
Bull! is at Tramway, Glasgow, Wed 1—Sat 4 Jul. Capacity is limited.
The Fringe . . . and beyond the Fringe
AS THE FESTIVAL creeps inexorably closer, a call goes out for accommodation. With 9810 performers expected in Edinburgh for the final three weeks of August, beds will be in short supply. If you have a flat to rent, a spare room, or even a Iargish broom cupboard, the Fringe Office would like to hear from you on 0131 226 5257.
MONEY IS ANOTHER key issue for those staging shows at the Fringe. An enterprising scheme comes from Café Graffiti, which this year hosts its final Festival at Mansfield Place Church. To raise advance funds for a programme of 25 diverse shows, Graffiti has launched a 'Wild Card'. Priced at £100 plus VAT, this special ticket allows the holder and a guest admission to any Festival show at Graffiti. ’It's a wonderful deal for audiences and great sponsorship for us,’ says Graffiti’s Juliane von Reppert-Bismarck, to whom applications should be sent by mid- July. Sales are limited to 250, so interested parties should inquire forthwith on 0131 557 8003.
SHOWING HIS HAND for the Royal Lyceum's autumn/spring season is artistic director Kenny Ireland, who describes the programme as 'a gamble'. but reckons the theatre will win. In a promising mix of old and new, the Lyceum will present revivals of the Communicado success Therese Raquin, James Bridie’s classic The Anatomist, Terence Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea, Scottish premieres of plays by Liz Lochhead and Iain Heggie, plus two world premieres: an adaptation of John Fowles's creepy novel The Collector, and Stiffl, a brand new comic musical based on the Faust legend, written by Forbes Masson. who will also star. We wish all concerned a smile from Lady Luck. 'Gambling' Lyceum plays the joker: Forbes Masson, writer/star of Stiff!
ZS Jun—9 Jul 1998 THE "3759