Saturday 19 August 2017

EIF 2017 - Martin Creed's Words and Music, or, What This Festival Needs is Some Fringe Shows (Because Nobody Else is Offering That)

Martin Creed apparently thinks he's at least a triple threat – artist, singer, writer. Presumably Fergus Linehan agrees and commissioned this show on that basis, alongside the evident desire that the International Festival should have more Fringe-like elements (quite why the International Festival should be moving to do work the Fringe can perfectly well do is a question nobody seems inclined to discuss). I occasionally laughed in this show, one or two songs were enjoyable enough, there are some perceptive remarks (though I think Creed is not so insightful as some seem to imagine). But a great deal of this is tiresome, familiar and wearily self-indulgent.

The show begins with a projection of the following on single slides: “No-A-E-I-O-U-Yes” (it eventually becomes clear this is related to Creed's issues about the slipperiness of words). Then we get a rambling voice over about, amongst other things, sorting socks. Finally Creed hops into the room and proceeds, eventually, to play a number on the electric guitar while standing on one leg. I began to wonder whether I should have brought a larger glass of wine in with me.

A rambling monologue about the problem of starting a show (hence the hopping in - an attempt to be different) then commences, which slowly morphs into a more general whine about the problem of doing a show at all. As I have said of the countless other International Festival shows that have followed this approach, if you find the whole thing so difficult please don't feel you have to bother and, in particular, please don't feel you have to bore me by telling me about these difficulties I have heard performers whining on about on stage too many times yet again. As with The Divide earlier in the afternoon it took self restraint not to shout some invective at Creed.

And that's pretty much how the next 75 minutes unfold, plus various pieces of information about Creed himself, some doodling on the computer screen, and quite a bit of swearing (another thing which is wearily old hat). Creed appears to want to create some kind of community with his audience, though I did wonder at times if he was simply being arrogantly provocative, laughing behind his hand at all these people stupid enough to have paid money for this. However, if community is what he is after I suggest he attends Jamie Wood's I am a Tree at Assembly George Square – not a flawless show, but an infinitely superior one when it comes to forming a bond with your audience, also much funnier.

As the end of 75 minutes came in sight Creed turned to wittering about the problem of ending a show which led to the frankly alarming statement: “This isn't a show which finishes.” For a moment I had a terrifying vision of the thing going on endlessly into the wee small hours and regretted a) that I had finished my wine and b) that the exit was on the other side of the seating rank. Fortunately Creed only overran by about 7 or 8 minutes.

This is a show to avoid. It led me to speculate on what the press reaction would have been if Brian McMaster had programmed this (a man whose programmes were stronger but who, it seems to me, was subject to far more press criticism than Fergus Linehan though the latter's approach poses far more questions). More seriously, as stated at the beginning, it is a mystery to me why the Festival should be putting on Fringe type shows when there's an existing Fringe perfectly capable of doing just that.

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