Review: Buzzcut Festival

Aileen Booth

Buzzcut is an artist led theatre festival which began its life in the winter of 2011. Each year over 50 performers descend upon the Govan area of Glasgow for five days of affordable food, drink, and most predominantly, entertainment. Performers travel from any number of different locations and range from amateurs to professionals, performance artists to activists. Only one thing is guaranteed at Buzzcut: conversation.

The festival is held at the Pearce Institute in Govan, an area where a growing number of performers are choosing to stage their work. This is an often criticised decision due to the potentially alienating effect of performance art, often associated with privilege and processes such as gentrification. However, Buzzcut manages to avoid this issue, primarily by operating a pay what you can system. The event is open door meaning that for the vast majority of performances there is no need to pre-book tickets. Upon arrival everyone is provided with a free programme and an envelope, visitors are then invited to watch as many of the shows as they would like over the five day period and pay with an anonymous donation. In this way, Buzzcut separates itself from stereotypical ideas of performance art as middle class and inaccessible.

Now in its fifth year, 2016’s festival centred on the concept of ‘identity’, with each performance tackling this issue in a different way. One stand out performance came from recent Royal Conservatoire of Scotland graduate Katy Dye, whose hour-long performance ‘Baby Face’ attempted to tackle the ‘infantilisation’ of women. Drawing from her own experiences as a 23 year old woman who is often told that she looks much younger, Dye initially questioned whether it is acceptable to tell women that looking younger than their years is a positive thing. Standing at the microphone surrounded by toys, Dye stared into the audience and asked if it was a good thing to have the cheeks of a four year old, the smile of a six month old baby or the legs of an eleven year old schoolgirl. Such ridiculous questions obviously caused the audience to laugh, however there was a notably uncomfortable mood amongst viewers as Dye’s carefully crafted script caused us to question whether using youth and purity to fetishise women was acceptable in a society which damns paedophilia.

The performance spaces were small with audience members sitting in the aisles and by the foot of the stage when all other seats were quickly taken up, and oftentimes people would be turned away when the performances filled up beyond capacity. With the ever growing number of visitors that Buzzcut is attracting, one can see that they may soon have to relocate to a bigger venue. However, the atmosphere was never anything but welcoming and diverse. Audience members ranged from children (Buzzcut provides a crèche) to mature adults to students and the festival was equipped with audio description and sign language experts upon request. As much as performance art can sometimes be criticised, Buzzcut surpasses all of this to create a warm and safe environment for all, and one which champions creativity and freedom of speech across every generation.


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