Festival review: Outskirts, Platform, Glasgow

The Glasgow suburb of Easterhouse is an unlikely place in which to find one of Scotland’s best alternative arts events, yet over the past few years neighbourhood arts centre Platform has excelled itself with the annual Outskirts festival. With a few hundred people in attendance – many arriving from the city centre – this year’s event was intensively focused on part of a single day, from late afternoon to late evening, yet by the end a constant stream of artists in a number of rooms left those in attendance feeling full from the kind of cultural menu which isn’t available in such concentration anywhere else.

Eilidh Rodgers of Sacred Paws appeared at Outskirts as part of the Easterhouse Conversation PIC: Brian Sweeney

Appearing as part of a national tour, Surrogate Productions and translator Louis Muinzer’s adaptation of Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse’s theatrical work The Guitar Man (***) was a dreamlike experience, a contemplative mantra in which Renee Williams’ busking title character reflects on the failure of his/her life in repetitive phrases with a looping, poetic, almost child-like quality; the effect was a concentrated shot of mood and emotion delivered drop by drop, rather than a full-blown narrative.

In a room christened ‘the den’ at the rear of the building, a multi-artist exhibition named Timefield was enhanced by a live reading from two of the artists, Kate Clayton and Ian Cameron (***), in which the pair read Lesley Wilson’s text The Land That Forgot, a meditation on memory and place which reflected the theme of ageing encompassed by the show.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Bi-Curious George and Other Sidekicks (***) was a raw but amusing and very touching show in which daughter-father team Lucy and Addrian Hutson reflected upon their own theatrical work (she as a performance artist, he as a children’s entertainer) and their own relationship and states of mental health.

In ‘the unit’, a separate building across the car park, artist Jessica Higgins presented Dedications (****), a performance piece featuring a live jazz score by the Glasgow band Banana Oil, in which a number of performers moved through the space, breaking off into short, choreographed excerpts of conversation and of harmonised spoken word. At the end of this transporting experience, Banana Oil played their own primal live set.

Among the highlights was a live performance by electronic producer Kevin ‘The Bug’ Martin’s King Midas Sound (****) project, a dense and heart-shaking soundtrack of dub-influenced electronics shrouded in smoke and neon, over which poet Roger Robinson offered vocal interventions about the loneliness of urban life without love or connection; the work played vividly upon the imagination, conjuring stories and meaning from the most minimal of suggestions.

Northern Irish, Glasgow-based artist David Sherry (****) was the penultimate performer, although what his job description might allow him to call a performance art piece was more of a stand-up comedy set – an extremely funny one, albeit with a particularly highbrow frame of reference, so well-suited to the crowd here. He touched upon Brexit (pointing out that the 8,000 referendum voters who marked ‘don’t know’ on their ballots were visionaries), the financial system and the nature of identity itself.

Finally, the annual Easterhouse Conversation (****) brought a local engagement process to an end with a typically thrilling set of new electronic tracks from Glasgow’s Free Love, aided by Sacred Paws’ Eilidh Rodgers on drums, with their lyrics informed by conversations with locals. It was a very rooted finale to a festival of the satisfyingly otherworldly. - DAVID POLLOCK