Day One at Buzzcut Festival

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Actually, it’s the second day of the live art festival at the Pearce Institute in Glasgow but due to work, I couldn’t make the opening day. So in order to save travel time, I lost by Megabus Gold virginity and took the overnight sleeper coach. Unceremoniously dumped in Buchanan bus station at 6:30 am after an intermittent night’s sleep, I chugged a coffee (after being laughed at for attempting to order a flat white) in the station caf before heading to my digs, then navigating an unfamiliar city’s public transport across town to the Pearce Institute.

The DIY/anarchist vibe is strong – a hand painted banner stretches across the front of the building and the ornate hall used as a the cafe/bar/community hub/place for announcements is similar – but it doesn’t look sloppy. There is care and thought in every corner, from the crèche to the info desk. I have some lunch amongst the diverse group of artists, organisers and audience members. There’s also a diverse range of disabilities – people are communicating with BSL, others are in wheelchairs, and there are a few with white sticks. All needs are catered for and all are welcome. The room is relaxed and welcoming; anything goes and everyone is respectful.

The ApocoLIPS have taken over the stage and are setting up, there are people queueing to book slots for the 1:1s. One of the Buzzcut founders, Nick Anderson, welcomes us, then makes announcements before the start of each piece. You don’t have to be a slave to the programme, and everything is Pay What you Can – there’s a David Bowie dummy holding the bucket. It feels like an extended family reunion, but without the negativity that comes from real family.

I completely fail to secure a slot for any of the day’s 1:1s, but I know to queue earlier next time and there’s plenty of other things to see, anyway. I’m determined to not let FOMO dictate a crazy pace, or at least, not today. Naps on the couches might set the rhythm of what I see.

After a couple of songs by BSL punk band The ApocoLIPS – an angry discourse about periods called Shark Week being both entertaining and the best of their songs – Blake Venus’ Transformation #66 happens in a small room behind the hall. A woman’s naked body is smeared with paint, then a bucket of ice is poured over her in a victorian bath. She has no autonomy other than to skitter away from the boiling water gradually raising the bath’s temperature. Though these are common tropes in live art, it’s a simple, clear example of the extremes society attaches to women. They are frigid or whores, insecure or bossy, selfish or self-sacrificing and there is no middle ground. Though brief, it makes its point quickly and soon becomes repetitive.

Close Shave – Live Art for Young People is an altogether more interesting endeavour. A group of 14 -18 year olds set up a restaurant where each table gets three courses of curated live art. Though anyone can go, the issues on show clearly resonate with young people. The table I choose is gifted with an intimate work on fulfilment and emptiness involving glitter covered chicken carcasses. Performed in bite size chunks, there’s an understandable limit to the depth of these pieces. But it’s impressive that teenagers have curated the acts and host the rotating performances. Their confidence and pride is great to see, especially within the live art niche of performance.

The day’s highlight is Mamoru Iriguchi’s The Journey From Man to Woman amalgamates several micro performances on gender and sex. Iriguchi’s lecture/cabaret feels like a work in progress, though the individual pieces are totally polished. The use of close-up projections on his body, whimsical animations and a mix of styles is funny and engaging. The sections in between the performances are reliant on a script; Iriguchi is prone to losing his place and rambling a bit but this is easily sorted with further rehearsal. His use of a throughline about clown fish and their ability to change sex helps tie the piece together, though there are some vague transitions. It’s a fun piece overall, and a great use of technology.

The vibe at Buzzcut is one of community, support and celebration. So far the quality of work has varied (like any festival), but the atmosphere and the ability to base everything in one venue helps make Buzzcut particularly special.

Buzzcut Festival runs through 9 April.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

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