Dance & theatre


Eden Court, Inverness

Four stars

Touring until May 4


Universal Hall, Findhorn

Four stars

Run ended

Glengarry Glen Ross

Opera House, Manchester

Four stars

At Theatre Royal, Glasgow, April 8-13

SCOTTISH Ballet, our national dance company, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Given the breadth of its programming, it is fitting that it should begin its celebrations, not with a classical ballet, but with Spring!, a double bill of defiantly unorthodox choreographies.

The evening begins with the world premiere of Dextera, an intriguing and memorable work by Scottish Ballet artist in residence Sophie Laplane. The choreographer describes the piece as a celebration of creativity, but, it seems clear, it is also commenting, upon current debates around gender inequalities and identities.

This it does with imagination, humour and some disquieting imagery. In contrast to the beauty of music by Mozart, red-gloved men manipulate puppet-like women, some of them with hooks attached to their costumes (all the better to control them).

This rigid, disconcerting gender scheme begins to crack when we see a male figure, attired in the same white dress as the women, being moved around the stage with energetic roughness. Soon, chorus scenes are offering comedic gestures of feminist defiance, leading to a final montage of personal freedom and social harmony.

The partner piece to Laplane’s choreography is a delicious revival of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s highly original work Elite Syncopations. First staged in 1974, it is a colourful, breezy and remarkably imaginative evocation of the music and dance of ragtime.

The piece is danced with fabulous energy and characterful expressiveness to resolutely happy music by Scott Joplin. Indeed, from Jamiel Laurence’s unintentionally comic Short (think Harold Lloyd trying to become king of the dancehall) to Constance Devernay’s sassy Stoptime, this staging captures fabulously the good humour, joy and exuberant sexiness of MacMillan’s classic dance work.

The opening of Scottish Ballet’s new season wasn’t the only major dance event in the Highlands in recent weeks. On March 22 the Manchester-based dance-theatre company Quarantine came to the Findhorn Foundation to perform, for the first time, the 12-hour marathon version of their acclaimed show Wallflower.

The piece, which is usually performed in 90-minute or five-hour incarnations, is subtitled “can you remember every dance you’ve ever danced?” The show involves members of the company stepping forward and creating, in words and movement, improvised scenes based upon significant dances in their lives.

As they do so, there is always a DJ on hand, ready to draw up a suitable piece of music for the show’s dazzlingly diverse, improvised soundtrack, which includes, on this occasion, JS Bach, Al Green, Bronski Beat, Blondie and The Fall.

This marathon version of the show (which was performed from noon until midnight) was presented in Findhorn by Dance North and involved seven performers. Quarantine’s performers log carefully each individual dance; the 12-hour performance in Moray accounts for a significant block of the nearly 4,000 dances they have performed since Wallflower began in 2015.

The memories range from the comic and joyous, to the deeply personal, romantic and tragic. The locations include theatre stages and nightclubs, of course, but also people’s homes, the great outdoors, a school, a swimming pool, a ballet class and a train.

Watching the 12-hour version (which I did for around 11-hours in total), one becomes almost hypnotised. The improvisational and physical brilliance, and the charming informality, of the company combine mesmerisingly with the evocative power of memory and music.

Wallflower is a deceptively simple idea, and a brilliant one. By turns fabulously entertaining and deeply affecting, it is, quite literally, an unrepeatable piece of dance-theatre.

From the freeform excellence of Quarantine to the major UK touring production of David Mamet’s famously well-made 1983 play Glengarry Glen Ross. Director Sam Yates’s production gets to the bleak heart of a drama that strips back the vicious, dog-eat-dog logic of Reaganite capitalism in the United States.

A fine cast, led superbly by Mark Benton (Shelly Levene, a once ace real estate salesman, now in decline) and Nigel Harman (hot shot salesman Ricky Roma), also give brilliant expression to Mamet’s reflections on competitive relations between men. Roma (played, famously, by Al Pacino in James Foley’s 1992 movie) struts his stuff like the alpha-male in a troupe of gorillas. One can almost taste the desperation of Benton’s Levene (Jack Lemmon’s character in the film) as he tries to claw his way back into contention.

The men’s sales written on the board, and bonuses or the sack are the only economic Darwinist options on offer. Such brutal dynamics push the terrified “dead beats” and “losers” among the salesmen towards foul, rather than fair, means.

As the ruthlessly best-laid plans of the company go spectacularly awry, Scott Sparrow gives a chillingly mechanical performance as cynical office manager John Williamson. Chiara Stephenson’s flawless, maximalist sets (the interior of a Chinese restaurant in Act 1, the ransacked real estate office in Act 2) are appropriately cinematic, and properly reflective of the professionalism and skill of this smooth, well-acted production.

For tour dates for Spring! visit: