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Issue 41 - Weird and wonderful

Scotland Magazine Issue 41
October 2008


This article is 10 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Weird and wonderful

Sally Toms gets out and about in Glasgow.

It occurred to me that my columns have been rather rural of late. So, in the interests of correcting the balance, I picked up my bags and set off for Glasgow.

I couldn’t have picked a better time. On the bank holiday weekend in late September, Glasgow was literally buzzing. The Merchant City Festival was in full swing, and it was pay-day. The sun was shining, its citizens were happy, and so was I.

I just love Glasgow, there’s so much to do. You could live here year round and not experience it all.

Even if you were to eat and drink in a different venue every night, and visit a different museum, gallery or tourist attraction every week – it would still probably take a lifetime.

Speaking of which, I have written before of my love of those eccentric, off-the-beaten-track tourist attractions. The best in Glasgow, in my opinion, is Sharmanka.

In the backstreets of Trongate in the heart of Merchant City, you might see a few people wandering around, blankly staring at buildings for any indication that they have arrived at Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre. The clue they are looking for is a tiny notice tacked to a door, next to a buzzer to be let in.

Down a dingy corridor and up some stairs, you might, at this point, be wondering where on earth you’re headed. But this is only a temporary location while its new home, a development called Trongate103, is being renovated. But I actually quite like it. I think it adds to the atmosphere.

Performances are on Thursdays and Sundays at 7pm. We arrive a bit early and surprise Tatyana Jakovsky, artistic director, in a corridor. “Please, you come zis vay,” she breathes, in a fabulous, Bond-film-type Russian accent (Glasgow is truly multi-cultural), and we follow her into a dark room. She disappears behind a curtain and we are alone. The room is filled with skulls and echoes.

Dark shapes tower above us.

Eventually, Tatyana flicks a switch from somewhere unseen, and the lights come on, revealing Eduard Bersudsky’s wonderful, macabre, comical, amazing mechanical sculptures. You’ve never seen anything quite like this, guaranteed.

There are around 15 in total. Each one is different and each one comes alive to a different display of light and sound. Bells ring, cogs whir.

Tiny carved figures leap and caper around a tower that might have once been an old grandfather clock. You recognise bits of scrap and metal, there’s a bit off an old bike, there’s a hoover bag, a rocking horse, a sewing machine, a skull. They all spin and clatter in an enthralling choreographed display of haunting music and coloured light.

The thing I like about it is that you can choose to be blithe, and just appreciate the spectacle of puppetry and mechanics (kiddies love it), or you could chose to be a bit more critical. Because beneath the surface these sculptures are telling an interesting story: of Communism, human spirit, and the relentless circles of life and death.

Where else but Glasgow can you get all that for £4?

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