Music @ Summerhall

Suburban Scottish Horror, Feminist Punk Resistance and Lauren Gilmour on Closed Doors and the

By David Pollock

An appreciation of all kinds of music performance runs throughout Summerhall’s programme this festival, from the wide selection of concerts amid our Nothing Ever Happens Here strand, to a series of theatrical shows which offer new takes on gig theatre.

A particular highlight of Nothing Ever Happens Here this year is a ten-day residency for Pussy Riot’s Riot Days show, a collision of music, film and spoken word which adapts Maria Alyokhina’s memoir of the Russian art-punk collective’s 2012 guerrilla performance in Moscow Cathedral and their subsequent imprisonment for it. As an artefact of current world politics and feminist action, there are few more timely.

Other exciting artists appearing on the NEHH bill include Kevin Rowland of Dexy’s Midnight Runners, who will be bringing his distinctive DJ set to the Dissection Room; Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin and their atmospheric electronic scores in a greatest hits performance as well as the full soundtrack of cult hit Suspiria; Irish instrumental rock group And So I Watch You From Afar; Baltimore indie-rockers Wye Oak; the first theatrical music presentation from Edinburgh’s Meursault, Crow Hill; and Scots-Gaelic electronic group Niteworks.

Within our theatre programme, meanwhile, Australian punk-theatre show Prehistoric takes us back to the 1970s’ culture of resistance, Tortoise in a Nutshell composer Jim Harbourne examines many possible worlds in The Myth of the Singular Moment, and Valerie, a cabaret piece from New Zealand, looks at family history, mythologies and genetics.

Made in Scotland by an all-female company of performers and musicians who have played in some exemplary Scottish bands, Closed Doors is a piece of gig theatre storytelling which deals in fiercely current themes. Lauren Gilmour, one of the trio behind the show, tells us more.

“The story’s based around Govanhill in Glasgow, a really thriving neighbourhood where lots of cultures share the space and live on top of each other, and inevitably there’s some tension there, some issues of prejudice. A police incident has happened at the top of the show, we don’t know what, but the show consists of following four locked-in neighbours who are forced together for the duration of the evening, speculating about what’s going on.”

How did the play come about?

Audrey Tait and I work together as Novasound – she used to be in (Glasgow group) Hector Bizerk and is now in a band called The Miss’s, and I was in a folk duo called Bella and the Bear. We’ve worked with the Birds of Paradise theatre company, most recently on The Tin Soldier just before Christmas, and Audrey’s soundtracked a couple of their other productions as well, Miranda & Caliban and Crazy Jane. Belle Jones’ background is in acting and writing; we collaborated last year, Audrey and I composed the soundtrack for her Fringe show Shame at Assembly. That sparked an admiration for what each of us does and a bit of an itch to write something collaboratively using spoken word and music, something less traditional. Onstage we’re using drums, pianos and vocals.”

What themes does Closed Doors address?

“That background of prejudice is something that we wanted to explore in the writing. It was an exciting topic to write about for us, because it’s easy to relate to that awkward feeling of your neighbours being these people who you see every day, but you don’t know much about their lives. We also wanted to write female characters who we haven’t really seen much of onstage before, with different backgrounds and different cultural profiles to ourselves. We’re not trying to do anything too politically charged, too controversial, it’s just our contribution to a conversation that’s so prevalent just now, that’s tackling some burning issues. But it’s a story about people, and hopefully it sends our audience away thinking about themselves and how they might act in similar situations.”

Is any of it based on personal experience?

“Belle was a resident in Govanhill, in a block of flats like the ones we’ve based our story in. A similar incident occurred, which stopped people getting in and out of their flats, and once we got chatting about the project it seemed like a really exciting and juicy beginning of a story. She lived in an area where she had lots of different neighbours who speak something like three hundred languages and have different cultures, and it all exists within that couple of square miles. It’s something Belle’s really passionate about, she volunteers a lot around the area as well, they’ve got a community canteen she does a bit of work with – she came to the project writing about what she knows, the energy and vibrancy of the place.”

What do you want the audience to take from Closed Doors?

“Our aim is to make them feel as though they’re enduring this evening in the space the women have been forced into. At times it takes you to a dramatic place and there’s palpable tension there, but when four people come together who don’t want to share time together, a dry humour comes along with that. I think the music helps in terms of shifting the tone, and I hope we take the audience with us through a form of storytelling which is new to us. If we can tell a story well in this format, then that’s job done.”