Week two of Arches Live delivers more dramatic treats

Arches Live
Arches Live

Arches Live drew to a close on Saturday, bringing to an end a fortnight of ground breaking theatre, installation and dance.

Thursday evening alone saw eight different performances and two installation pieces crammed into the venue’s atmospheric subterranean rooms.

The undoubted highlight of the evening was ‘Punching Woman Coming At You Punchman’, written and performed by the talented Peter Lannon and Emma Nutland.

Sitting two-deep around a boxing ring, the audience watch two friends battle both physically and verbally. The literal blows are initially light and uncertain, but when the ‘banter’ starts it’s clear things are likely to spiral out of control. Easy laughs turn into something much darker and the initial applause for the introduction of the combatants is notably absent when the ‘winner’ is announced.

Billed as a work in progress, it’s a wonderfully-realised piece of work which delights in wrong-footing the audience with every punch and counter-punch. It will certainly make you think twice before you next make a joke at a friend’s expense.

Next up was ‘Enormous Yes: Bonny Boys Are Few’, an autobiographical journey through Ireland in search of an absent father which gets tangled up in Celtic myth and the tall tale of a Spanish conquistador ancestor.

Written and performed by the charismatic Michael John O’Neill, it’s a production which ultimately crumbles under the weight of its boundless ambition.

Parts succeed wonderfully, particularly a segment where a young Michael accompanies one of several ‘short-term surrogate’ fathers to hunt a mythological eel. Multi-talented Claire Willoughby shines, playing a multitude of roles as well as singing and assisting a three piece band.

Unfortunately, even exceeding the billed 50 minute running time by at least 15 minutes, it would take twice the time to deliver the tangle of ideas in a coherent way. Instead of bringing everything together the denouement just peters out, leaving the audience wanting more, but not entirely sure what of.

Last up, finishing matters on a uncharacteristic low, was Calum MacAskill’s ‘Every Pound’s A Prisoner’.

It’s a great idea - spending 50 quid in Poundland before using the resulting clutter to create an improvised performance. Sadly the execution is poor, as the performer blunders around the stage desperately trying to create something out of nothing.

There are moments where things seem to be coming together - model soldiers standing guard in a village made out of toys and books while an umbrella provides a sunset - but they are far too thin on the ground.