Theatre review: Buzzcut - Various venues, Glasgow

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IT’S seven o’clock on a cold spring evening, with the light beginning to fade over Glasgow’s magically lit Merchant City, and I’m in a crowd of about 60 people, most of them young, walking briskly up King Street to the sound of a jaunty saxophone.

Theatre review: Buzzcut - Various venues, Glasgow

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We’re heading from Buzzcut headquarters, at Mono Cafe in King’s Court, towards a disused shop in Albion Street that has become a temporary theatre, presenting the fragments of experimental performance that are Buzzcut’s lifeblood; and it’s a moment that sums up the sheer vitality of the festival, founded in Glasgow last year to replace the much-lamented National Review Of Live Art.

Over five days, Buzzcut 2013 has presented about 50 events, across the Merchant City and at the Glue Factory in Port Dundas. It represents a powerful example of what can happen when you take a lively cultural scene full of young artists, add a couple of young entreprenenurs – Nick Anderson and Rosana Cade – and stir in a fine cityscape with plenty of underused space, and, this year, a modest grant from the Jerwood Foundation.

The work itself, free to any interested passer-by, ranges from one-on-one mini-shows dotted around the bar at Mono, to full-length pieces of performance art. Out in the streets, performance star Eilidh Macaskill is leading small groups on a walk around the Merchant City in an event called Talking ’Bout Regeneration, inviting them to consider what is really going on, in an area dense with arts venues and regeneration initiatives, but also still scarred by signs of poverty and dereliction.

And in Albion Street, on Saturday, I saw three contrasting shows, beginning with Harry Giles’s Class Act, a 90-minute “game show” which – like the work of several other young Scottish performance artists – occupies the territory between game show, lecture and political polemic, dividing the audience into three classes, handing out sweeties, quizzing us on what we know about class, and then allowing the economic system to do its worst, in promoting inequality and exploitation.

Later in the day, there was Greg Sinclair and Catherine Street’s 15-minute abstract miniature You Are Infinite Contraction, a subtle sequence of slight movments and flickering light, driven by the gentle click of a pair of metronomes. And finally – preceded by Richard Layzell’s wonderful brief poem on the business of documenting live art – came Richard Dedomenici’s presentation of his outrageous Second Cut reworkings of fragments from films including Amélie and Cloud Atlas; shown on a split screen with the originals, using the same locations, but reclaiming them as real places, in which heroines – often played by Dedomenici himself – bumble around looking less than perfect, but acting out the storylines just the same.

The effect is hilarious but also piercing, as sharp a critique of modern myth-making as Harry Giles’s deconstruction of the economic system; and as fierce as only a street-level festival like Buzzcut can be, in identifying the lies – of word, deed, propaganda and image – that buttress existing power, and threaten to make fools of us all.