Apollon Musagète/Violence

Tramway, Glasgow

Mary Brennan, four stars

Take Me Somewhere’s 2018 season doesn’t only hit the ground running: this opening double bill throws down an ammo-packed gauntlet to the way society often assumes women should behave - and indeed pressures them to do so.

Florentina Holzinger’s take on Balanchine’s ballet, Apollon, opts for visceral subversion and the full-frontal provocation of six naked women displacing classical choreography with the stuff of Coney Island freak shows. The acts of body piercing - involving nails, needles, staple-guns - are wince-inducing, but then how many women ‘go under the knife’ or have Botox in pursuit of the physical perfection that Holzinger and her fellow performers pillory with scathing humour, shows of fierce, risk-taking strength and flamboyantly graphic bodily functions. Pointe-shoes become a part of this hectic circus, with cunning echoes of Balanchine in a mix that asks questions about the male Apollo’s ownership of the arts - not least because of how women’s naked flesh acts as both muse and material in those arts.

In Violence, FK Alexander – in pretty frock and red stilettos – sits at a table strewn with flowers? An unused bridal bouquet, maybe? As the plaintive lyrics of Don’t they know it’s the end of the World wail out, Alexander rhythmically guillotines the blossoms. Slowly walking upstage, her heels rasp like sharpening knives. Text flashes up on-screen – the suffixes “less” and “lessness” creating a litany of loss and loneliness. The slow walks, the flower be-headings, Skeeter Davis’s anthem of lovelorn despair are re-iterated but – like Andy Brown’s (live) drumming – there are hints at maelstrom emotions being suppressed. Until the final minutes where Alexander herself keens out a double-tracked version of the song – drawn out, off-key, reverberating with pain. Yet again this extraordinary performer makes small details tell huge stories about the hopes and heartaches that matter to us.