Take Me Somewhere reviews: Breathe | Black Privilege | Skunk Without K is Sun

This year’s Take Me Somewhere festival offers an avalanche of cutting-edge performance and installation events, writes Joyce McMillan

Breathe ****

Tramway, Glasgow

Black Privilege ****

Black Privilege by Mamela Nyamza PIC: Chris de Beer.jpegBlack Privilege by Mamela Nyamza PIC: Chris de Beer.jpeg
Black Privilege by Mamela Nyamza PIC: Chris de Beer.jpeg

Tramway, Glasgow

Skunk Without K Is Sun ****

Tramway, Glasgow

Take Me Somewhere 2023 is the first full in-person TMS festival in four years, and it features a glorious avalanche of more than 25 cutting-edge performance and installation events, staged over three October weekends across the city, from the Mitchell Library to Princes Square shopping centre and the CCA.

There’s no doubt, though, that the Tramway is the beating heart of this year’s festival with a special energy underlining the significance of the South Africa Focus programme that has helped shape this year’s festival.

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It was thanks to South Africa Focus, for example, that those at the Tramway this weekend were able to experience Goldendean’s Breathe, an extraordinary 50-minute act of communion and celebration created by South African artist, teacher and theatremaker Dean Hutton. Their self-described “Fat Queer White Trans body” – a living mountain of beautifully gold-painted flesh, moving towards the top of a great heap of exquisite white-gold sand – becomes the centrepiece of a quietly joyful and magnificent show about breathing, moving, revelling in the physical stuff of the Earth that made us, and above all learning how to value and accept ourselves, so that we can also fully accept and value others.

The power of the South African connection – and of gold as a symbol of value – is also blazingly present in Mamela Nyamza’s Black Privilege, which begins with a stunning sustained image of dancer-choreographer Nyamza perched high on a moving platform wearing traditional African symbols of power: golden crown and collar, spear and scales of justice.

The platform begins to vibrate, and in an image of colonial disruption and destruction, the power falls away, towards humiliation and slavery. And if the show’s imagery sometimes veers between the over-literal and the obscure, the quality of Nyamza’s movement is never less than stunning, in a show that challenges, provokes, and compels us to think as well as to feel.

Both these shows are beautifully complemented by Malawian artist Billie Zangewa’s Tramway exhibition A Quiet Fire; a hugely impressive collection of artworks that bring together Zangewa’s interests as an artist and fashion designer in wonderful figurative collages of hand-stitched silk fragments that speak volumes about the lives of African women today. And there’s also a magnificent use of fabrics – and of perfumes, too – in Louise Ahl’s mind-blowing new show Skunk Without K Is Sun.

Ahl is a Swedish movement artist and theatre-maker, based in the UK; and in this latest piece she offers up a “three-act opera” in sound and movement which somehow succeeds in covering most of the human condition, and something like the end of the world, in a single solo performance of 65 minutes or so. Between a fabulous abstract backdrop and a ravishing archway of gathered fore-curtain (both designed and painted by Anette Gallein) Ahl moves and crawls, shrieks and dances, stands, rolls and rests, while her astonishing soundtrack composed by Yas Clarke – a narrative entirely recorded in her own voice, and intercut with live sound – leads us through the event in ways that can seem both helpful and jarring.

Take Me Somewhere runs until 28 October, see www.takemesomewhere.co.uk

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