Theatre review: Whatever gets you through the night, Glasgow Arches

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IN A DEEP, DARK space at the Arches, an audience of a hundred or so gather, and take their places on old bus seats, kids’ chairs, cushions strewn across the floor.

There are three or four stages dotted around, backed by huge screens; then there’s a band playing a moody tune or two, and a glittering woman on a trapeze who morphs into a girl on a night out, meeting her friend, plunging into a throbbing clubworld projected on the screens, and reflected in the music.

This is the beginning of Whatever Gets You Through The Night, a huge multimedia show – which also involves a film, an album and a published text – directed by Cora Bissett, and designed to tell a series of stories of what happens across Scotland between the hours of midnight and 4am; and it involves a team of more than 40 leading Scottish musicians, writers, songwriters, and performers, with the musicians often taking the lead, as Ricky Ross and a terrific list of indie stars create a superb original score of more than 25 songs.

Although the list of writers credited is as long, though, in the end there’s just one man whose mood and thinking seems to shape the evening; and that’s dramaturg David Greig, who seems, consciously or unconsciously, to have formed this show into a 15-years-on little sister of some of the great Suspect Culture shows of the late 1990s, with their wry sense of a middle-class, yuppie Scotland in which people search restlessly for a sense of love and completion, in an endlessly fragmenting society. The mood and ideas are not new, and the non-musical writing sometimes seems a shade lightweight. In the end, though, this is a fiercely likeable evening of theatre, rich in talent and musical inspiration.

Rating: ****