Theatre review: Buzzcut, The Pearce Institute, Glasgow

Primal relationships are explored in depth at this year's Buzzcut, writes Joyce McMillan

Emma Franklands work, Rituals for Change, is filled with arresting sounds and images

Buzzcut | Rating: **** | The Pearce Institute, Glasgow

The city changes, but the beat goes on. Glasgow’s Buzzcut festival – the annual jamboree of cutting-edge performance for the city’s hip twentysomething creatives, and those older folk who care about their work – is effectively the child of two now-defunct Glasgow arts institutions, the National Review of Live Art, which last appeared in 2010, and the creative community around the now-closed Arches Theatre.

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Since it first appeared four years ago, though – under the inspired curation of its twin stars Nick Anderson and Rosana Cade – Buzzcut has always moved freely around the city, exploiting the performance potential of all its streets and spaces; and now it seems to have found a spiritual home in the wonderful Pearce Institute in Govan, where it sets up a hub with food, drink and entertainment in the great McLeod Hall, and then sends audiences out around the building to experience the latest in Scottish, British and international live art.

This is not a euphimism by Aby Watson

What’s striking, though, is that for all the range of performance ideas on view, one theme runs through the programme like a leitmotif; and it has to do with gender and sexuality, and with the experience of those who refuse to be categorised or restricted even by this very first definition that is placed on us, at birth. So within three minutes of entering the building, on Thursday evening, I find myself in a packed, sweaty room off the main hall watching Leeds-based duo Rachael Young and Dwayne Simms conjure up OUT (****), using a 40-minute series of powerful images inspired by the lives of gay men and transgender women in Jamaica, possibly one of the most macho societies on Earth; there are video images, some inspired dance, a beautiful use of lighting, and an avalanche of oranges, pouring their bittersweet scent into the air.

Then, in the Mary Barbour Hall, it’s the immensely lyrical, but also more explicitly political, work of Emma Frankland, a trans woman and acclaimed performance artist who writes beautifully, in her latest show Rituals For Change (****), about the deep texture of the experience of undergoing such a profound transition, and accompanies her words with some fabulously arresting sound and images.

And finally, upstairs in the Billiard Room, it’s Glasgow-based Aby Watson, a superb dancer and movement artist, who unfolds a fiercely erotic meditation on her experience as a heterosexual woman called This is not a euphemism (***), full of cheek, sadness and an occasional sharp sense of danger.

And that was just half of one day’s work at a five-day festival that, for all its pay-what-you-can hipster informality, is playing to packed audiences, and attracting support from a steadily widening circle of sponsors. Over the weekend, the programme will also include performances by artists from South Africa, Chile and Mexico, supported by the British Council.

This is not a euphimism by Aby Watson

And if the thematic range of the work at first seems surprisingly narrow, there’s no doubt that it leads into the deepest place of human experience; the place where our bodies meet the world, and where the art-form of dance and movement – and the music, sound, imagery and theatre that comes with it – has so much to say about how we can observe and understand that primal relationship,and perhaps begin to change it.