Sunday, 23 September 2012

Anatomy @ Summerhall

Summerhall's campaign to become the most important venue in Scotland continues apace: not content with a successful Fringe - it ended up being the BBC's location of choice for serious cultural interviews, and had a really cool underground radio station in the old labs - it is presenting a programme of events throughout the year. Anatomy, which sold out in its first edition, returns for a second slot, and demonstrates that Edinburgh, contrary to expectation, does have an alternative performance scene that can, if not rival, at least challenge Glasgow's hegemony.

Co-director Harry Giles, who pointed out my political naiviety in a recent interview, is enthusiastic about round two. “Our first night proved that there’s a huge hunger for nights like this in Edinburgh – places where people can come to enjoy new and experimental work, and where artists can share strange and wonderful ideas." The line-up, which includes  live film soundtrack, nauseous puppetry, tender dance, dystopian crooning, barnacled storytelling, experimental theatre and visual art, touches most of the experimental bases and manages, in a single night, to argue for a lively aesthetic underground in a city better known for having bad public transport and one month of artistic excess against eleven of drought.

Like Arches Live!, Anatomy is best experienced as a whole: individual artists' work is juxtaposed to create an atmosphere of bold adventure: Jack Webb revisits the dancing persona that he has been evolving since his season at Dance Base in 2012 with GlitterGrid; Julien Longchamp and the Apostrophe Ensemble live score Fall of a Window Cleaner, via workshops with the AIC ensemble and Mr McFall's Chamber; Lewis Sherlock and Lisa Hayes prove that clowning can be for adults and contemporary through a variation of the classic joke set-up (one's a nuclear physicist, one's a Gothic mistress of darkness).

Anatomy is set somewhere between a scratch night - a night for untested work to receive a first go at an audience  - and a minifestival. What the artists share is a sensibility towards alternative versions of existing art-forms: Michelle Hannah may be a lounge singer but she is more interested in deconstructing her self than recommending the chef's special. Shambolica have recognised that not only is puppetry for adults, it can be used to be offensive and disorientate. And Oliver Benton, using film and Bakhtin's description of the town square as the model of an inclusive state, is acting the fool to King Commerce. Even storytelling gets a contemporary update, through Conrad and Willy Molleson.

Since Anatomy 1 sold out, there is clearly an audience for this kind of event in the capital: and when Michelle Hannah invokes the spirit of cabaret for her lounge routine, she is unconsciously identifying how Anatomy itself comes from the spirit of early twentieth century variety: not the predictable light entertainment beloved of television, or the increasingly mainstream vision of the neo-cabaret revival, but the tough, subversive wit of Weimar cabaret, or the riot-grrl ambitions of 1990s neo-burlesque.

ANATOMY #2: 28th September 2012, 7.30pm, £6

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