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Event Review: Arches Live 2013

Lorna Irvine reviews several featured performances from the acclaimed festival.

Songs of Scotland

Whether cheerfully lampooning Tartania, the Land Of Tartan Kitsch,in her publicity still, or cheekily facing the future in retro- modernist outfits of wigs, tinfoil dresses and 3D specs, Fish and Game's Eilidh MacAskill and her community choir bring a flash mob mentality to proceedings, and it is a heartwarming way to open this year's Arches Live mini-festival.

Eilidh stands and sings alone at her keyboard, until one by one, the singers trickle in and provide goosebump-inducing harmonies, while slogans associated with Scotland are flashed up on the screen behind them. The Proclaimers et al never sounded so good. Truly lovely- never mind the forthcoming referendum- Eilidh MacAskill for First Meenister!

Every Pound's a Prisoner!

There are a lot of rum thoughts in performance artist Calum MacAskill's head. For, on a budget of just 50 quid, he has fed his addiction, an increasing addiction that gnaws away until it must be Poundland. The bargain store has stamped its mark on the high street, so much so that it's following on from Tesco in its ubiquity.

Wearing a mask fashioned from a Poundland bag and grinning like a loon, MacAskill looks like the type of man you see directing traffic in New York wearing a pinwheel hat- 'eccentric' would be one (kind) way of putting it.

It's not every show that makes a man reading a shopping list compelling, but somehow, in his own maverick way, MacAskill pulls it off. He tips the crap onto the floor- staggering to see what fifty pounds looks like in terms of alleged 'bargains'. Behind him, a screen shows some of the 'wonders' that can be bought for so little, and it's as bizarre, disposable and random as could be expected: duct tape to angling DVDs, bath bombs to dust pans.

The only time he comes a little unstuck is in the middle, when too much puppeteering with silver foil goes on- there's a sense of padding there. A stronger narrative at that point would build it nicely.

But his natural charm claws it back, creating a cheeky parody of a Vietnam epic film with toy soldiers and said bath bomb 'exploding' in the middle, and a finale in which he loses his shit like a stroppy teen being told to tidy his room.

If there is a natural heir to The Mighty Boosh, you suspect it could be MacAskill...given a bigger budget. Look out, Primark- you may be next...

Let's Dance!

Arches Artist-in-Residence Adrian Howells' work has always explored compassion, trust and intimacy, and his new collaborative piece, He's the Greatest Dancer, performed by Gary Gardiner and Ian Johnston in tuxedos, is a continuation on that theme.

Johnston has severe learning difficulties and is often shy. Gardiner is his bolder dance partner, and encourages him to express himself in dancing. We also learn about each man's tastes.

In true iPod 'shuffle' mode, their repertoire throws off inhibitions and goes hell for leather to Lady Gaga/Beyonce's Telephone, grooves to the title track by Sister Sledge, or gently sways, eyes closed to Nick Cave's beautiful Into My Arms. It's touching and delightful to watch, and there's some fun audience interaction when they discuss favourite music. Bjork, Rufus Wainwright and Kings Of Leon all get the thumbs-up, but on the shout out of 'Robbie Williams', scrunched-up programmes are chucked at the duo, with a chorus of ''BOOOO!" (And rightly so.)

Never patronising or awkward, the piece is all about inclusivity, and Gardiner is able to laugh at himself, claiming his 'wonderful physique' is down to training with Pina Bausch and 'lead swan' in Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake. That's right,Gardiner, and I'm Angelina Jolie. For the finale, it's Psy's ubiquitous Gangnam Style, where we all take to the floor. I balls it up and get a stitch (I'm getting on, you know, and can't dance for shit) but it's fun and no one cares—just as it should be. There's dance of a different, but equally compelling, kind in Various Dance Artists' Behave, an ambitious piece of contemporary dance looking at social interaction and the issue of personal space. Against a stark white wall, Melanie Forbes-Broomes and Katy Ann Robson get in each other's faces; try to hug and kiss, giggle, cringe, pull deadpan expressions and throw shapes—sometimes tough, often catlike and slinky.

A dress is pulled at, skin and hair clawed at. Then the duo mirror each other and move as one. This is a witty and intimate study of the unconscious desire to reach out and communicate, no matter how clumsy or baffling the result. The strobing, noirish lighting is provided by Becky Anson of the wonderful 85a Collective and adds a dreamlike, gorgeously surreal quality.

Run ended

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