Don’t look now; but out on the more adventurous edges of theatre-making, the idea of theatre performed by professional actors for a paying public is approaching meltdown, and not only because of the pressures of austerity. Artists are also increasingly raising questions about who has the right to tell other people’s stories; and now, as part of the Take Me Somewhere festival, the Tramway hosts a spectacularly brilliant new young people’s show by Glasgow company 21 Common, co-directed by Lucy Gaizely and Gary Gardiner, and inspired by their furious reaction to a health and safety sign in the Tramway itself, asking patrons to “kindly supervise their children at all times”.
In The Interests Of Health And Safety Can Patrons Kindly Supervise Their Children At All Times (*****) is an unforgettable one-hour explosion of theatre, in which a team of ten children aged 9-12 – dressed at first in striking red boiler-suits, and by the end in simple black leotards – use every ounce of their own unstoppable energy, wit and presence to stage what is almost an Extinction Rebellion-type protest against an over-controlling society. Supervised by three fraught male parent-figures, they mime furiously to loud and naughty French torch-songs, perform dangerous-looking leaps involving a high platform and a pile of mattresses, mimic adult smoking, drinking and flirting behaviour with uncanny accuracy, and generally have the best time imaginable; while also delivering a beautifully disciplined and good-looking show, perhaps just brilliant and unsettling enough to begin to change a nervy and – for children – oppressively cautious world.
Asrun Magnusdottir’s Listening Party (***), seen briefly at Platform in Easterhouse, takes a much less highly-wrought approach to performance by young people, simply assembling a group of local youngsters, and asking them to choose a favourite piece of music, to which they whole group then dance. The effect is slightly vague but tremendously touching, exploring the centrality of music to young people’s lives, and the immediacy of their shared response to it; and when, after 45 minutes, they invite the whole audience to join them in a kind of school disco on stage, it’s completely impossible to resist.
All of which has the odd effect of making Brownton Abbey (****) – a performance party staged by a Brighton-based group of queer and disabled artists of colour – look slightly conventional, since most of the people performing are adult professional artists. Dressed in merry extremes of gloriously camp costume, Brownton Abbey present a disco-cum-cabaret that explores serious themes around the legacy of colonialism through spoken word, music and visual images, while also offering some gentle and glamorous party fun; a combination which makes them perfect contributors to a festival which loves to enjoy the transgressive, while also seriously exploring the issues that sometimes – where systems are unjust or broken – make transgression not only a pleasure, but a duty. - Joyce McMillan
Take Me Somewhere continues at venues across Glasgow and beyond, until 2 June.