Joe Dunthorne Festival Detour and GOD/A Beautiful Hell at DanceBase

Back to the art festival yesterday and, indeed, back to the Melvin Moti exhibition where Joe Dunthorne was performing his Festival Detour. Can I just say that I really love the idea of the Festival Detours? It’s a brilliant programme of free events and I love how different art forms bounce off each other. Go look at the programme and see if you can go to anything! I’m off to Inua Ellams on Friday.

I hadn’t actually heard of Joe Dunthorne before I went to this (shame on me! He’s a Faber New Poet and author of Submarine) So I had no idea what “Joe Dunthorne…responds in his own particular way to the work of Melvin Moti” would actually entail.

It turned out to be a nice fable-like story about sentient noble gases moving through the universe. (He also went from the Melvin Moti film having shot the fluorescent minerals like planets or spacecraft). It was mostly – thought I felt not entirely? – well coordinated with the film and really complemented the visuals. It’s a different experience to seeing it in silence but I think I liked it better. I enjoyed the references to the colours and the personalities and interactions he gave the characters (5 million gaseous characters vibrating to each other was “like having all of Scotland on one conference call”. He also seemed to get away with using the “just like your earth ______” formula in a non-annoying fashion. A pleasant 18 minutes.

The museum was again looking not too busy – maybe because it’s sunny and there’s so much else to do? I hit the cafe for a cheeky wee millionaire’s shortbread (my first of the fests – not too bad after my obsession with it at the science fest) and it wasn’t too busy. I’m sure it’s worse at lunchtime but at the moment I am still approving the museum as a chill-out space.

Another good chill-out space is the National Library – apparently it’s open till 8 so I’ll have to get in some day between events and see the Scotland at the Cinema exhibition. Yesterday, I just popped in to get my “Luke, Ah’m yer da” poster which I find unduly amusing.

I acted like a massive tourist by having a mediocre pizza in the Grassmarket for my tea – couldn’t waste that sun! – then chilled out in DanceBase’s cafe with a beer and Marianne Wheelaghan’s book The Blue Suitcase, which is a gripping account of a German family in World War 2, based on her mother’s life. I loved this book and would highly recommend it. (I do know Marianne vaguely but I bought the book for real and it’s not because I know her that I like it!) It’s currently insanely cheap for Kindle.

GOD/A Beautiful Hell at DanceBase was a strongly contrasting but complementary pair of all-male dance pieces. GOD (Grumpy Old Dancers) was a humorous looks at aging from two choreographers. The dance was fluid and gorgeous and I was absolutely fascinated by how they used spoken word – the text from the little monologues was chopped up and used in the background throughout, making me think “I want to do a piece like that one day”, weaving the phrases in and out of each other. Not with the dancing, obviously! I had no idea when I chose the show that it had spoken word elements in both pieces, so an even better fit for me than I thought. I wrote down ‘plays with ideas of masculinity’ but then I thought that that was pretentious and cliched. Eh, take it as you will. It’s a gorgeous, fun piece, I would recommend it unequivocally. I smiled a lot.

A Beautiful Hell was a spot-on title for the second piece in this show – it’s a stunning piece with great choreography but I found the subject matter of loneliness and exclusion was so well communicated that it was hard to watch at times. The violence was highly stylised but I could still feel it. There was great use of music , from Mogwai to Roy Orbison, although it frustrated me when the Roy Orbison totally obscured the main character’s monologue – I mean, I’m assuming it was meant to, from the context of the piece, but I found it annoying and wished that I could lip-read. Great young dancers and definitely worth seeing, but not a comfortable watch.

Upcoming – more dance tonight – I’m thrilled to be seeing Smallpetitklein’s Within this dust having been impressed with Falling Man last year. I’m also going to a workshop at Inky Fingers Minifest tomorrow, which continues to have amazing events – do look them up and go pick up a Poetry Polaroid!

Note: I received a free ticket for GOD/A Beautiful Hell through my blogging for Clicket. I bought Marianne’s book myself, feeling a little embarrassed that I only paid £1.98 for it! Marianne will be talking about it at the St Andrew’s and St George’s mini book festival fringe on the 17th.

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