Desert Rain

Glasgow: Tramway, Thu 29 Jun—Sat 8 Jul. The philosopher Jean Baudrillard’s infamous statement that ’the Gulf War did not happen’ came as little relief to the Iraqi children born with congenital birth defects as a result of depleted uranium munitions used in Operation Desert Storm. But Baudrillard was suggesting that what we witnessed through our television screens was a mediated image of war, not reality, but ’hyper-reality’. Instead of media images reflecting reality, they created a world where the simulated image became more real than the real itself.

Desert Rain is a political response to the Gulf War that is clearly influenced by Baudrillard’s work, but which moves beyond it to look at how people can recover some of the human contact lost within the context of a purely technologically mediated experience. ’All the major news industries were reporting on the war,’ states performer Nick Tandavanitg. ’But when it came to having any kind of idea about what actually happened, or how many people died, the most obvious things were still not clear. We were in the situation of having an event that we had no direct experience of but were sharing through completely constructed media. It may sound cheesy but we wanted to get to the human side of the conflict.’

Working with the Computer Research Group at Nottingham University, Blast Theory have utilised the latest technology to develop an interactive experience which is part-video game, part-installation and part- performance. The audience, limited to six at a time, is briefed about a mission before entering a space with computer software projected onto a wall of cascading water. They put on headsets, stand on a footpad and

Part-video game, part-installation and part-performance

have 30 minutes to make their way through this virtual environment and complete their mission.

’People can move around on the footpad and navigate their way through this world,’ explains Tandavanitg. ‘They start in a room and then move into the desert where there are underground tunnels and bunkers. Their mission is to find their target and escape. Each of the targets is a real person with a different experience of the war.’

This might be heavy material for some, but Tandavanitg highlights the appeal of the technology. 'We want people to be able to take this on different levels,’ he says. ‘Fourteen to sixteen-year-old computer game kids have gone through it and emerged exhilarated by having played a strange ethereal computer game and then other people have come out completely involved with the human experience that they found.’

Desert Rain engages with serious issues in a genuinely innovative way. Stick it in your personal organiser. (Davie Archibald)

adventurous theatre-goers to keep their ears peeled and their eyes open in preparation for the performance.

On arrival, Gregory promises, there’ll be sensory fulfilment bLiilt from ’music, choreography, original text and a design based on smell’. 'lt’s a form of licensed people-watching, alloWing us to look past the surface and learn something truthful about the performers,’ he says, being careful not to give too much away. 'lt's voyeuristic but there's not that distance between the audience and the performers. If it works you should feel as though you could be telling your own story too '

Formerly the associate director at the


Glasgow: Tramway, Thu 22—Sat 24 Jun. Quarantine Theatre Company has created a challenge for journalists. It won't tell us what its new show is about and it wants those who see see- saw to keep the experience to themselves.

Enticing as this shroud of mystery may be, the company’s director and founder, Richard Gregory, thankfully

Music, choreography and smells

throws a little light on the matter. ’lt’s really hard to give preVIew information,’ he confirms, 'but it's fundamentally about the real life experiences of the people we have in the show.’

A collaboration between skilled professionals and non-prolessional performers, see-saw is also a multimedia production aimed at stimulating our senses Promoting itself as a 'journey of discovery', it asks

Northern Stage in Newcastle, Gregory established Quarantine in I998 to make theatre appropriate to specific contexts, challenging the boundaries between art forms and between audience and performer. Specifically about livuig in Glasgow, the pilot performances of see-saw are a culmination of a six-week residency in the city, but only the beginning of the performance concept. ’lt Will shift and change according to who we perform it With,’ says Gregory ’lt’s a continual experiment ' (Catherine Broinleyl

Stage whispers Re: Treading the boards

ONE OF THE strengths of Scottish theatre, but one which exists beneath the surface, rarely allowed to appear because of financial limitations, is its capacity to produce new writing. Over the last year, for example, two unheard of names - Zinnie Harris and Douglas Maxwell - have emerged as major forces in theatre writing, but you sense that these up-and-coming writers are but the tip of the iceberg.

This is why the proposal, currently being investigated by a working group, for a playwright’s centre for Scotland is so fascinating. The proposals are, of necessity, a little vague, since members of the group, which includes such notables as Nicola McCartney, lain Reekie and Iain Heggie, haven’t finalised their considerations, but anything which could genuinely facilitate new writing in Scotland and, more to the point, get it onto stages, should be welcomed.

While some have expressed unease about the idea of a centralised body in a particular city neglecting more marginalised regions and points of view, there seems little point in criticising the forum until we see the final proposal. Whatever its standpoint, if there are more new writers on Scottish stages in two years' time, all in the theatre community will have cause for satisfaction.

THE FIGHT AGAINST the keep the clause nutjobs has been given a boost by the announcement of a one-night performance by Giles Havergal of his one-man adaptation of Death In Venice, which played to good houses at the Cit/ last season. Thomas Mann’s story of an ageing writer who develops an infatuation for a young boy in plague-ridden fin de siecle Venice might well serve to remind us of the quality of art which could be denied to the paying public: if lvlrs Strain’s court case against the Glasgow City CounCil, seeking to Cut the funding of Glasgay and mct, succeeds. All proceeds for the performance, which Will take place on Thursday 22 June at G2, Will go to the affected companies.

+’-. - c - Giles Havergal pitches in for the sound of mind in Death In Venice

22 Jun 76 Jul 2000 THE “ST 57