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Herald Scotland

Bid for the big time well worth the wait

Herald Scotland:

Reported by Neil Cooper

Theatre critic

Published / Arts & Ents

When Louise Quinn found herself in a meeting with 20 people to discuss her training shoes, she realised something was amiss.

That was when Quinn was fronting the band Hardbody, the 1990s near misses whose major label masters instigated the meeting.

Such an absurd discussion may have fed into the narrative for the video that accompanied The Glimmer Song, a single by Quinn's current combo, the eponymously inclined A Band Called Quinn. In the video, Quinn and the band are brought to life by an evil puppet-master who puts them in a toy theatre where they're forced to perform as he sees fit. This in turn may have informed BiDiNG TiMe (remix), Quinn's version of a play written by Australian auteur Pippa Bailey, which Quinn performs at The Arches in Glasgow this weekend for one night only.

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BiDiNG TiME charts the rise and fall of Thyme, a young woman chasing love and fame in a man's world. While Bailey's original version, first performed 25 years ago, looked at Thyme's situation from the perspective of an actress, Quinn's remix of the play puts her first-hand experiences of music business peccadilloes very much to the fore.

"It's my mid-life crisis project," Bailey says of BiDiNG TiME, "and there's no shame in that, but I didn't just want to go back to the story, I wanted to look at the whole theatre system and the way it is made.

"There is an economic crisis and an environmental crisis going on, but I wanted to look at the role of theatre and women within it. If all the world's a stage, if we want to change the world, what does that mean for theatre?"

Bailey's solution after a quarter of a century running arts centres and alternative museums was not just to revisit BiDiNG TiME, but to offer it out to anyone to do with as they wish. With Grid Iron director Ben Harrison having already read Bailey's script, once Quinn discovered it the meeting of minds and ideas proved irresistible to all parties.

"Within 15 minutes of meeting Pippa I recognised we'd both had that similar brush with the big time, and were still doing it," says Quinn. "I thought the original play was great, but I thought we could make it darker and more multimedia based, and I could add my own experience in the music industry. It was a really great catalyst to create the show. That over-arching theme of fame and women in the entertainment industry is so potent today in the celebrity-based culture we live in."

Quinn is a natural fit for BiDiNG TiME (remix). As the video for The Glimmer Song illustrates, there has long been an inherent theatricality to A Band Called Quinn's oeuvre. This was partly from her drama school training at the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow and stints with left-field theatre company Mischief La Bas. It was only fully capitalised on when A Band Called Quinn took part in Vanishing Point's radical and audaciously dystopian take on The Beggar's Opera on the main stage of the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh. BiDiNG TiME brings together all of Quinn's creative worlds in close-up.

"The characters are composites of people we knew in the music industry," she says, "and some of the lines are things they actually said. These people were disconnected from my reality and other people's reality. From the outside people only see the glitz and the glamour of the music industry, but it's really quite a cold, grey place."

BiDiNG TiME has already made connections across the world, with artists in Iran, Australia and India remaking the story of Thyme in their own image. Closer to home, Bailey has worked with kindred spirits such as Little Bulb, and has presented related events at the Bongo Club in Edinburgh. This ties in with Bailey's notion of exploring space and location. The result, while still in its early stages, has been the creation of a loose-knit global village exploring the ideas of Bailey's play in a more intimate, community-based environment.

"Rather than tour, I'm more interested in doing it locally," Bailey says. "That's something to do with the environmental agenda that's in the play, and doing it this way means we're no longer stuck in an existing hierarchy that's no longer useful to us. I think people are looking for something beyond cultural imperialism."

With this in mind, the Arches show, directed by Harrison, is produced by Tromolo Productions, the company set up by Quinn which also releases her band's records. BiDiNG TiME (remix), then, is about taking control on every level.

"How do you get new ideas out into the world?" asks Bailey. "You share it. Fundamentally this project is all about change. If somebody's interested in doing the play, then let them. See what they do with it, and make theatre more democratic."

BiDiNG TiME (remix), The Arches, Glasgow, October 6. Visit www.thearches.co.uk, www.tromoloproductions.com

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