Weekend of Improvisation in Glasgow, or WIG for short, is a programme of public workshops, peer-to-peer sharing of different practices, and a curated performance of improvisation composed of six sets. An evening of improvisation is, in and of itself, an odd thing to ‘review’. Its value lies in the creating, thinking presence of the performers in front of you, in your acute investment as you watch them figure something out – sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
That aside, palpable threads, images and concerns nonetheless emerge. The evening begins with a short, multi-layered sung improvisation from Nicolette Macleod, which sends skin-tingling ripples of sound reverberating around the space. Solos from dancers Molly Danter and Stephanie Arsoska provide whimsical, comical notes to the evening. Danter’s youthful presence effuses out from the stage and captivates the audience: her movement is light, delicate, curious. Arsoska’s comic persona throws out sharp, nonsensical lines that punctuate her buoyant movement. Both performers’ improvisations allow us to see, if not their very ‘true’ selves, at least an honesty and personality in their performances.
Vonnegut Collective from Manchester present a duet featuring violinist Gemma Bass and trumpet-player Gary Farr. Moving from solos to a duet, uncertainty is heightened: control of the space and the performance’s arc isn’t guaranteed for any individual, lending a different sensitivity to the performance. The liquid timbre of their instruments is beautiful to experience, their movement explorations perhaps holding less resonance. Something Smashing, a regular Edinburgh improvisation night with new pairings each night, brings dancers Tess Letham and Nerea Gurrutxaga together with musicians Graeme Wilson and Russell Wimbish. It becomes a world of shakes and bodily neuroses: do we laugh along because we see the artist in their pretensions, or because we sense something evocative of how we interact more generally?
ICEBERG (Eilon Morris, Zoe Katsilerou, Penny Chivas, and Macleod) conclude the evening, in an improvisation much different from the others. As a group who consistently practise together before performing, their familiarity is evident in their ability to sense change, to craft new, nearly-whole tableaus, and to respond almost instantaneously to proposed shifts in pace. It’s the most structured performance of an evening that showcases an interesting diversity of approaches.
At its best, WIG showcases the personality of its artists and asks the audience to attune to every fraught deviation, fanciful flight, and co-operative dynamic in the room.