Theatre review: Buzzcut 2015, Glasgow

WEDNESDAY evening in Govan; and in the dark back yard of the Pearce Institute, something stirs. A man in a military camouflage jumpsuit prowls restlessly round a domestic space that sits precariously against a high, cold courtyard wall; a bedroom, a few battered but cosy pieces of furniture, and a man who – we can see from his body language – is about to do some serious damage to everything that comes into the path of his rage and despair.

Sylvia Rimat: Just one of the solo acts in a festival that buzzed with ideas

Buzzcut 2015 - The Pearce Institute, Glasgow

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There are no words in American performance artist Jamie McMurry’s new 45-minute performance piece, Soiled; just this visual image of a domestic environment taken apart, and a complex pattern of sound, as McMurry groans into a microphone, plays the occasional scrap of music, and rattles, grinds, shakes and shatters everything, from metal chains to buckets of liquid paint and flying table-lamps. It ends in fire and transformation, as McMurry emerges in a white suit, and sets the bedding alight. And there’s something unforgettable about this reflection on the fierce post-traumatic stress of a generation of veterans; made all the more memorable by the uninvited sounds of a weekly Govan gospel group sing-song drifting down from elsewhere in the building.

This is just one show of dozens in Buzzcut 2015, playing this weekend at the Pearce Institute; and although the Pearce is one of Scotland’s most venerable community centres, it can rarely have witnessed such a rich, thoughtful and laid-back explosion of creativity, spreading from the central MacLeod Hall – where there’s food, drink, and a chance to experience half-a-dozen installations and one-to-one shows – through to the Mary Barbour Room and beyond. The infant child of Glasgow’s late, great Review Of Live Art, Buzzcut is curated by Nick Anderson and Rosana Cade, and is not for those who like their art finished and predictable. The aesthetic in generally tentative, often deliberately hand-knitted; the audience is largely made up of others with a professional interest in performance.

Yet with a pay-what-you-can ticket price – and a growing if still wary relationship with a wider Govan audience – Buzzcut generates a memorably rich and relaxed atmosphere, pulsing with ideas about the way we live now. Over two evenings, I saw not only Jamie McMurry’s show, but – for example – Laurie Brown’s scorching new solo work-in-progress, The Daily Grind, about gay sex in the internet age; Mamoru Iriguchi’s haunting, whimsical reflection on how we understand the life of Marlene Dietrich, driven by some brilliant use of laptop technology; and a strange 40 minutes in which performance artist River Lin paints bright red cochineal on his lips, and “kisses better” the sorest parts of the bodies of all 21 people in his audience.

Audience participation is rife, in other words, conventional uninterrupted performance rare. Yet as Anderson and Cade put it in their opening remarks on Wednesday, after the excitement of the referendum debate Buzzcut represents “a space where we can still come together collectively, to work out new ways of being together collectively”; and I guess you have to be there – wandering the installations, waiting for the next show announcement, and eating the slow-simmering student curry – to understand just how good that can sometimes feel.

Seen on 18.03.15

• Ends tomorrow