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8964277266?profile=originalThis text is from Adrian’s contribution to the Making Routes launch event at the Arches in Glasgow on 23/09/11

The impact travelling and making journeys to different countries and locations around the world has had on my evolving arts practice...


This impact has happened in 3 major ways:


Firstly, by taking my work to a diverse range of countries and cultures, these trips have then directly influenced my thinking and ideas for other, new pieces of work, because of a qualitative and an experiential encounter with that country: meeting its peoples and engaging in its culture, traditions and customs.


Secondly, because it is fundamental to the ethos of my work and my personal philosophy, I IDEALLY create work for everyone and anyone, irrespective of cultural background, race, ethnicity, religion etc., the performance of my work in this eclectic and diverse range of countries and cultures directly informs me about the connection with and responses to it by different audiences from different cultural backgrounds and helps the piece to continue to evolve and develop.


Thirdly, there’s a kind of inevitable two-way traffic situation because of the cultural and artistic exchange that frequently takes place. Very often there are orchestrated opportunities for dialogue, learning and skill sharing between different artists and their disciplines, which in turn influences the work created and developed by myself and those artists, who then take that work back into their own communities.

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8964276897?profile=originalFirst impressions of things I learned from doing my show Even in Edinburgh/Glasgow on the train between Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Queen Street as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011:

− if a festival is called after its host city, press like to write about a show which ends in a different city

− large volumes of pre-show press does not equals large volumes of audience/reviews

− working with national organisations means only 6% of the people you will encounter will have any idea of what you are doing

− performing on public transport means you are subject to public transport

− people in the Holytown area love stealing cable

− stolen cable means signal failure

− art is not compulsory

− get a champion in the organisation you are working with

− if you are taking people out of their comfort zone, you are their parent: if you look stressed, they are stressed; if you look relaxed, they are relaxed – what you are actually feeling is utterly irrelevant 

This blog entry is a collection of my initial impressions after doing a show which aimed to undermine initial impressions regarding Edinburgh and Glasgow (and the land between them) among residents and visitors. It was a poetry-tour which began on platform 13 of Edinburgh Waverley, boarded the train with the audience, made anyone who was in the carriage an audience member (if they wanted – more of that later), and then left the audience in Glasgow Central Station at platform 5, with a map of the city marked with My Favourite Places. 

I was the only performer: I had a notebook, a battery powered amp and a microphone. I had the poetry of Liz Lochhead, Gael Turnbull, Edwin Morgan, Elaine Webster and William McGonnagal. I had my own opinions, I had my own research and I had stereotypes by the tonne. I had the views from the train, the experience of the train, three of my own stewards and the staff of ScotRail and Network Rail, whose workspace I was invading. I had the permission of their superiors, and a hopeful, apologetic, defiant smile. 

The journey of Even in Edinburgh/Glasgow, began in late 2009 as Even in Glasgow/Edinburgh/Glasgow. I had recently moved to Glasgow from Edinburgh to study at the RSAMD and I had been struck that before I moved there I had been to Scotland's largest city, its cultural heart, maybe a dozen times in my whole life. Let's be clear, it was not hard to get to Glasgow, except mentally. I never lived much more than an hour from it physically, but psychologically there is an Iron Curtain which dissects Scotland around Falkirk (in fact, probably slightly to the east of Falkirk). The rivalry between the two sides is jokey, but it's not a joke. 

When I moved to Glasgow I was invited to make a pitch to be part of the On the Verge festival run by the RSAMD and the Arches. I wanted to do a show about Edinburgh and Glasgow, and following the advice of a friend, I decided to start by diving into what I already loved and so returned to a long-held idea of a poetry tour. Since the poetry and ideas would be about Glasgow and Edinburgh, it seemed only natural that I should show the audience both places, so they could hear the poems, hear my opinions, but also let what they could see out of the windows reinforce or undermine my words.

As is often the case with site-specific, site-based and general not-in-a-theatre theatre, negotiating between the various mighty, often corporate institutions was a tricky thing both in the development version in 2010 and in 2011 when I did the full version at the Fringe. As the sole writer, producer and performer I quickly found that it is the writer and performer who miss out in that triumverate of roles. Deadlines for press releases, or explanations to ScotRail or the Fringe office tended to shout much louder than the nagging whisper of my own knowledge that I needed to think about what I was actually going to say.

A large chunk of my preparation time was spent travelling the line, so that I could learn cues which would warn me of the approach of something I wanted to point out or synchronise with a line or a poem. The concentration it took to be 'present' for the audience, remember my 7000 word script and 9 poems, and keep an eye out for a specific tree formation, or view of a shale-bing out of the corner of my eye meant that after the show arrived in Glasgow, I tended to eat and then go straight to bed.

The biggest challenge of writing the show was fitting my argument's arc, and the points of the poems, to the narrative of the journey itself . This was to be an intellectual journey which mapped and enhanced the physical journey. I knew I wanted to give people time to think, talk and look without my voice, so I had to work in natural pauses. Another consideration as I wrangled with the dramaturgy of the show, was that approximately one third of my audience would have known about the show before they boarded the train (usually around 25 people). The rest (usually around 50) were just going places, sometimes only boarding the train for a few stops. I had to make the show satisfying as a whole, while also stimulating in chunks. 

In many ways, these other travellers were my 'central' audience. On the performance days, my stewards would stand on the platform at each station and explain to those boarding the train that our carriage would include a free poetry event that they were welcome to join, to ignore or to chat through. Alternatively, they could sit in the other carriage which was completely 'Art Free'. Although one man asked the conductor to hold the train while he literally ran away from the literature, there was about a 50/50 split in the number of people who chose the poetry carriage rather than the normal carriage. The 'incidental' audience included a whole selection of people going from A to B on a line with two prisons and a prison store, six stops and two mosques. 

With my microphone and my notebook, I looked much more like a tour guide (which I partly was) than a poetry proselytiser (which I partly was). I cultivated this appearance, as it meant that there was less preciousness about the event. This was not a sacred thing, separate from the world. Neither was it something which wanted to ram itself into a world and explode it from the inside out. I wanted to cultivate the sense of adventure that you can get on a journey, both from those who had chosen to see a play not in an auditorium, and those who chose poetry on their commute. However, I wanted to avoid the sense of fear associated with a military exercise. Some productions aim to shock their audience out of their normal lives with enforced, dare-devil audienceship. But if my audience felt afraid then they would not properly hear the poems. If they were merely excited by the unexpected then they felt and listened more closely to what I had to say and were more keenly attuned to the journey as a whole. 

Collating my first impressions of this experience has highlighted that it is problems, challenges and disappointments that present themselves first. Like the form-filling, production side of the creation process, these negatives shout loudly about what needs done and what needs done better next time. However, I have many abiding positive memories of the journeys that people took with me. The first is of a lady who watched my first performance, who got on at Waverley in order to get to Bellshill. At each stop she moved  closer so she could hear better and I spoke to her during the breaks in the show. She said she was listening because her son would be interested and it was so long since she'd heard any poems, not since school, and she never really though about the journey before, even though she did it all the time. As we approached Bellshill, she decided to stay on the train to Glasgow so she could hear the end of the show, changing her literal journey so she could hear through to the end of the concurrent literary journey.

At the end of the show, before the train pulled into the station, I went round those who had listened – pre-planned audience and otherwise – and chatted with them and gave them my personal map of Glasgow. After I got out of the station I kept bumping into people at the places I liked to eat, or heading to my favourite vantage points or museums. By ending in another city, there was no way that the audience journey could end when mine ended. My show was just part of their day out, just one journey of many within and between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Fitting the poetry journey within and beside, in front of and behind other journeys that the viewers would make on that day is an idea I take with me to my next show.

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8964277082?profile=originalMy direction? Anywhere. Because one is always nearer by not keeping still.

(Sebastian Faulks)

This essay is intended as a first step towards a theoretical framework for a new project about the relationship between performance and journeys. Making Routes is a peer-led laboratory for researchers and practitioners working in this field. As it develops we plan to run seminars, workshops, residentials, practical research laboratories, reading groups and discussion forums. 

My own interest in this area emerged as a development of my ‘site-specific’ practice and research. Whereas site-specific work often looks out from its site, there is now a growing interest in theatre and performance studies in work that travels outwards. Nicholas Bourriaud suggests that in the early years of a new century, ‘the immigrant, the exile, the tourist, and the urban wanderer are the dominant figures of contemporary culture’ (2009b, p.51). Making Routes is an attempt to follow the paths that are made in live performance, as well as creating some of our own.

Perhaps contemporary theatre practice is particularly suitable as a nomadic artform; a collection of practices that have always been located on vectors (movements through time and space) and interstices (points between entities). Due to its dynamism, this is an artform with the potential to resist the stultifying forces of commodification. It is constantly moving on, shifting and adapting to its environment. As Hans-Thies Lehmann reminds us, ‘theatre does not produce a tangible object which may enter into circulation as a marketable commodity, such as a video, a film, a disc, or even a book’ (2006, p.16). Performance operates through events; convergences in space and time that cannot be fixed or reproduced.

Over the last three decades, site-specific theatre has emerged as a dominant model in contemporary performance practice (Wilkie, 2002, p.141) . For many practitioners working in this field, making theatre that responds to its site is an attempt to ‘engender ideas of place and community’ and to renegotiate ‘spaces that are variously controlled, accessed, and inhabited’ (p.144). The ‘intense bonding with place’ in much of this work is often set against ‘commodity theatre’ (Wiles, 2003, p.1); the sort of theatre that is subject to the constant transportation from designer’s model box to rehearsal room, and from theatre to theatre, despite the show itself ‘deemed throughout to be an ontological constant’. For David Wiles, theatre has to connect to its space and become rooted to its site if the artform is to avoid commodification.

However, perhaps the ‘intense bonding with place’ described by Wiles is in danger of reproducing the systems that it sets itself against. In any attempt to provide an alternative to the relationships of the commercial market, there is always a risk of simply reinforcing the structures of capitalist globalisation that such work is trying to distance itself from. Philip Auslander highlights this problem by referring to Jacques Derrida’s argument that in attempting to place oneself outside the systems which are being critiqued, there is a great danger of ‘inhabiting more naively and more strictly than ever the inside one declares one has deserted’ (Derrida, 1982, p.135. Cited in Auslander, 1987, p.33-4).

An ‘intense bonding with place’ runs the risk of nationalism, localisation and exclusivism. As Rebellato warns in response to Wiles’ rejection of touring theatre, any perspective that sees the local as inherently resistant to globalisation is potentially problematic (Rebellato, 2006, p.99). Defining his discussion of globalisation as a profoundly economic phenomenon, Rebellato makes two important points; Firstly, just because a work is situated in a specific site, and is not moveable, does not per se disqualify it as a commodity (real estate, for example, is fixed on a specific site but yet is highly commodified). Secondly, global capitalism relies entirely on local markets (‘the ability to buy low in the periphery and sell high in the core’) (p.103-04).

With these qualifications in mind, it is important to question the underlying ideologies of site-specific theatre. Some of the questions that might be asked include ‘Do certain forms privilege the sanctity of the local at the expense of a progressive cosmopolitanism?’; ‘Is there an inward reductivism in operation in some of this work?’; and ‘In rooting theatre practice to its site, is there is a danger of imposing a creative vision onto a preexisting relational space, or a danger of romanticising a site and its history?’. 

In posing these questions, the intention is not to set ourselves against site-specific theatre, much of which looks outwards from its site and connects to its wider global context. However, the focus here is on work that moves on from a rootedness to its site and looks for ways to travel. To apply Bourriaud’s ecological metaphor, this is a shift of focus from the radical, which roots a plant to its location, to the radicant, which makes a journey and lays new roots as it travels (2009, p.51). 

This shift corresponds to a development of postmodernism to altermodernism, ‘an in-progress redefinition of modernity in the era of globalisation’ (Bourriaud, 2009a). For Bourriaud. the historical period labelled ‘postmodern’ is coming to an end, symbolised by the global financial crisis, and a new set of concerns are emerging ‘born of global and decentralised negotiations, of multiple discussions among participants from different cultures, of the confrontation of heterogeneous discourses’ (2009b, p.43). This twenty-first century modernity can only be polyglot and questions of origin become less important than identifying our common destinations. In an age of globalised modernity, we have all become nomadic.

Making Routes sets out to chart the multiple ways in which these concerns are explored in contemporary performance practice. There are many companies and practitioners working in this area today, using journeys in a variety of different ways. These include Wrights & Sites and its individual members, Lone Twin, Third Angel, Forced Entertainment, Punch Drunk and Pointed Arrow. There are many more but in this short list an apparent contradiction begins to emerge: a Western (more specifically British) perspective on practices with an inherently global outlook. Our interest is therefore in roots as well as routes; acknowledging the geographical, cultural and political context that our ideas and practices have developed from, and finding ways to set these roots in motion (Bourriaud, 2009b, p.51).

There is now a common understanding of things as constantly in process. As Michel Foucault (1984) explains, Galileo showed that ‘a thing's place was no longer anything but a point in its movement, just as the stability of a thing was only its movement indefinitely slowed down’, and this has been central to a great deal of thinking about space and performance. Iain Borden et al (2001) argue that architecture and the city should be understood through flows, and Doreen Massey states that ‘a reimagination of things as processes is necessary’ (2005, p.20). The work that develops from this project aims to tap into these trajectories, and to understand the ways in which they can be incorporated into a performance aesthetic. The scope of the project, and the directions that it takes, will of course remain in flux - a continual journey of discovery that builds new relationships along its routes.


Auslander, Philip, ‘Toward a Concept of the Political in Postmodern Theatre’, Theatre Journal, 39:1, The John Hopkins University Press, 1987, pp.20-34 

Borden, Iain; Kerr, Joe & Rendell, Jane; with Pivaro, Alicia (eds.), The Unknown City: Contesting architecture and social space, London: MIT Press, 2001 

Bourriaud, Nicholas, Altermodern Programme, Tate Britain, February - April 2009a

Bourriaud, Nicholas, The Radicant, New York: Lukas & Sternberg, 2009b

Derrida, Jacques, ‘The Ends of Man’, Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982

Foucault, Michel, ‘Of Other Spaces’, Architecture / Mouvement / Continuité, trans. Jay Miskowiec, 1984, (accessed 30/07/10) 

Lehmann, Hans-Thies, Postdramatic Theatre, trans. Karen Jürs-Munby, London: Routledge, 2006 [1999]

Doreen Massey, For Space, London: SAGE Publications, 2005

Rebellato, Dan, ‘Playwriting and Globalisation: Towards a site-unspecific theatre’, Contemporary Theatre Review, 16:1, 2006, p.97-113

Wilkie, Fiona, ‘Mapping the Terrain: a Survey of Site-Specific Performance in Britain’, New Theatre Quarterly, 70, 2002, pp.140-160

Wiles, David, A Short History of Western Performance Space, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003

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