“Star-cross’d lovers” is the theme of this year’s Bard in the Botanics, and in its pair of opening productions, the annual Shakespeare festival offers up the perfect complement of innocence and experience in tragic love.
Jennifer Dick’s production of Romeo and Juliet features a 13-strong cast performing against an al fresco backdrop while, at the other end of the botanical gardens, Gordon Barr stages Antony and Cleopatra beneath the glass roof of the Kibble Palace. It is an instructive pairing, reminding us of Shakespeare’s delight in recycling patterns of events in his plays. The latter couple may steal a march on the former in terms of erotic and worldly experience, yet both pairs of lovers die by their own hands, believing death infinitely preferable to life without their soul mate.
First published in The Times, Thursday January 25 2018
The weaving of dance elements into drama has become so widespread as to be unremarkable, even if certain productions tack on passages of movement in such marginal ways that they seem almost afterthoughts. Unusually, this adaptation of Marguerite Duras’s novel, created by Fleur Darkin of Scottish Dance Theatre and Jemima Levick, the artistic director of Stellar Quines, professes a 50:50 split between the two forms. While sporadically effective, their collaboration fails to capture the visceral power of its source.
The new work from Edinburgh-based choreographer Rob Heaslip creeps up on its audience with cunning stealth. It opens quietly and in semi-darkness, with the dancers bunched together and entwined: they pulse as one to the beat like a human heart. As the show’s subtitle implies, it takes a while to discern quite what we’re looking at, the gender of the dancers or even the number of people onstage, but by the end of the 50-minute piece, it has become increasingly hard to resist getting caught up in its every nuance.
On the face of it, the worlds of contemporary dance and the military make for unlikely bedfellows. Yet, for much of this three-part dance piece, the fruits of choreographer Kay and her company being embedded with a battalion, the use of movement to illuminate aspects of army life makes perfect sense.
First published in The Times, Thursday January 28 2015
So you think you know the story of Snow White? Think again. The second in a trilogy of fairy tale adaptations by the Newcastle-based dance company balletLORENT – following Rapunzel in 2013 – is notably darker than most family shows, with choreographer Liv Lorent and writer Carol Ann Duffy, the poet laureate, gleefully restoring the teeth and claws drawn by the likes of Disney.
First published in The Times, Thursday December 10 2015
In an early draft of the Grimms’ folk tale, the wicked stepmother tells her daughters to cut off their heels and toes in order to fit the glass slipper. It’s the stuff of which children’s nightmares are made, and a world away from the unfettered sweetness of Christopher Hampson’s Cinderella, which was originally choreographed for the Royal New Zealand Ballet and staged for the first time in the UK by Scottish Ballet.
Here, the stepsisters are not so much bad as misunderstood and the title character (danced by Bethany Kingsley-Garner) smiles even through the drudgery of the opening scenes.
First published in The Times, Friday December 4 2015
There have been enough retellings and parodies of Little Red Riding Hood to nearly constitute an entire genre. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the woods, along comes this startling piece of dance theatre, created by the Glasgow-based company Barrowland Ballet, which compels its audience to look anew at the caped heroine and her lupine adversary.