Playful Tiger

Platform, The Bridge, Glasgow

Mary Brennan, four stars

In September 2013, Vince Virr appeared as a workaday Dad who goes - not exactly ape, but Tiger. Resplendent in a bright orange suit, Virr erupted into the drab routines of his own home and encouraged his rigidly fastidious wife (Kai-Wen Chuang) and their sadly dispirited little daughter (Jade Adamson) to kick over the traces in Barrowland Ballet’s wonderfully exuberant productions of Tiger (for adults and over-14’s) and Tiger Tale, the version that choreographer Natasha Gilmore tailored specifically for the 6+ age group.

Both works have toured consistently – and internationally – since. They’re currently touring again in Scotland but now there is a remarkably bold and visionary additional element: Playful Tiger for children and young people who are profoundly autistic and mainly non-verbal. The three dancers who created the characters are now rising to the unpredictable challenges of audiences who have special needs.

There has been intensive research into those needs, but in the on-stage moment what really shines through is the generousity and constant awareness that the dancers show throughout the performance. Gilmore has pared back the narrative, leaving just enough to establish relationships and (like the costuming) the drudging greyness of life inside the four-sided, open meshed ‘cage.’

Thereafter, the colour orange reaches out, to touch and smell, in floating feathers,little tangerines and even in Virr’s aromatic costume. Audience members can join in, as and when they please: the interaction is an uplifting witness to how dance can loosen up more than muscles.

All three dancers give – and receive – trust and physical contact, with moments of partnering and even high, whirling lifts taking participants into the accessible joy implicit in every facet of Playful Tiger. For those happier to stay on the sidelines, the production still offers a story-line full of vivid visual images and dance that’s as tangy’n’tasty as the oranges that arrive in bucket loads.