Nijinsky’s Last Jump

five stars


four stars

Tramway, Glasgow
Mary Brennan

ON-STAGE, Vaslav Nijinsky’s jump – and his apparent pause mid-air – was the stuff of legends. His last jump, vividly relayed in this Company Chordelia production, took him out of the dance world for ever: diagnosed as schizophrenic, he was confined to an asylum and subjected to treatments – ranging from barbiturates to insulin-induced comas – more likely to induce mental distress than stabilise it.

A hot-ticket hit at last year’s Fringe, this piece has gained an even greater poetry and cogent provocation since. Chordelia’s director/choreographer Kally Lloyd -Jones has subtly tweaked the flow of text (by Michael Daviat) and movement while James Bryce (Old Nijinsky) and Darren Brownlie (Young Nijinsky) have utterly bonded, at every level, with the troubled, visionary soul of a creative artist defiantly out of step with early 20th century dance tropes. If the dialogue between the old man and his younger self delivers touching echoes of a once-glorious career – with bravura fragments danced live by Brownlie – it also turns a questioning eye on how we still define, and treat, mental illness.

The Petrushka puppet on-stage is a wise reminder of how other hands can pull the strings in our own lives.
Nijinsky’s career ended when he was just 29. For director/deviser Peter McMaster and his fellow performer Nick Anderson, 27 is still a significant watershed year.

First seen last year at the Arches, this exuberantly physical performance-cum-dance piece has aged superbly with some astute deletions and further reflections on how time is a wind of change that affects how, and what, we remember about growing up, and becoming who we are.

If naked honesty arrives when both men discard their initial skeleton-unitards, it is ever present in their full-frontal disclosures about family frictions, sexual encounters, personal definitions of maleness and how they relate to themselves – bouts of febrile self-loathing clinging like the ash that foretells sweaty bodies turning to eventual dust.

Irresistibly funny, unexpectedly and intensely moving, it’s a brilliantly complex response to how the present is, even now, the past. Dudes – seize the future, make more shows!