Theatre review: Perch, Glasgow

The Chicken Lady didn't even 'fly' down the zip-wire, but was winched down, flailing, and failing to excite any wonder at all
The Chicken Lady didn't even 'fly' down the zip-wire, but was winched down, flailing, and failing to excite any wonder at all
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A CENTREPIECE production of the Commonwealth Games Festival opening weekend, Perch promised a “carnival of flying and falling”.

Perch - Rottenrow Gardens, Glasgow

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On and around the buildings of Rottenrow Gardens, site of the city’s old maternity hospital, this collaboration between Scottish street art and circus company Conflux with Australian physical theatre specialists Legs on The Wall and Brazil’s LUME Teatro, accompanied by the 86-piece National Youth Orchestra of Scotland’s Senior Orchestra, brought a palpable crackle of anticipation.

And this was only heightened as costumed characters and clowns, “zookeepers” and “fashionistas”, wound through the assembled crowd, exhorting them to dance and pose for photographs. The site has proved a tremendous spot for such outdoor productions in the past – of the city centre yet detached and observant of it – and the presence of a zip-wire strung up towards an office block was suggestive of acrobatic feats to come.

And yet, as Perch unfolded, any real sense of excitement or jeopardy was limited to whether the heavens might open, as they had in the hours leading up to the performance. It might sound churlish, given the scale and complexity of the enterprise, but Perch never once approached the sensations of wonder and awe engendered from simply watching a parachute jump or an elaborate diving or gymnastics routine, let alone the marvels that troupes like Cirque du Soleil accomplish.

Far from expanding the production, a live video link to Brazil and concurrent show there, projected on to a surrounding building, was disappointingly static and focused too rigidly on a bird-like character squawking in Portuguese, affording no sense of what was happening beyond. When this character subsequently “appeared” above us in Glasgow and proceeded to spout trite inanities about the differences between flying and falling and the fate of the dodo, it was leaden stuff.

There were, though, some interesting correspondences in the animated sequences, between the venue’s maternal history and the fertility of our feathered friends. But the focus on flightless birds was curious. Everybody wanted to see the Chicken Lady “fly” down the zip-wire. But instead we got her awkwardly winched down, clumsily flailing, as she resisted and then succumbed to the romantic overtures of an Italian suitor below.

Ultimately, a solitary aerialist did tread and dance impressively down the side of the tallest building. Yet even this was a slow, studied and distant spectacle. If the object of Perch was to inspire and exhilarate us for the Commonwealth Games, then it scarcely succeeded.

Seen on 19.07.14