Rambert Dance, George Wyllie and a new drama at The Traverse, Edinburgh.


SIEME- Signing in

Ken Cockburn talks to Scottish artist KATE WHITEFORD about

her first stage design for Rambert Dance.

Remember the giant fish etched into Carlton Hill a couple ofsummers ago? It was the work of Kate Whiteford. a Scottish artist known mainly as a painter, but whose large-scale installations, indoor as well as out, are becoming increasingly renowned. So it‘s perhaps no surprise that she recently made the transition to stage design. working on Rambert Dance Company‘s Signature.

Rambert has a tradition ofcommissioning artists to design for them Bridget Riley and Howard Hodgkin being just two and certainly in Whiteford‘s case. there was an obvious link from the start. ‘It‘s taking the installations a stage further. working with dancers.‘ she says. ‘and also the element ofdance ties in with some ofmy work as well. the ritual ofdance.‘

Whiteford‘s work often makes use of the visual symbols ofcultures from ancient Greece to present-day Nepal where image and movement are closely linked in ritual. But she emphasises that she uses such symbols in evocative rather than literal or descriptive ways. In this, she was well attuned to the approach ofSignature

Signature by Rambert Dance

' score when we met,‘ she explains. ‘By coincidence it was called Chevron. which is a

symbol I‘ve used a lot in my work.‘ Indeed the chevron, an upturned V-shape, permeates the finished piece, pulling together

design. choreography and music. As for colours,

Whiteford opted for dazzling red and green, a combination she’s often used before. ‘I‘m quite consciously exploiting the after-image, which gives the work a third dimension,‘ she explains. ’The way you observe this, there’s movement in the work itself.‘ But such movement isn‘t simply aesthetic. Depending on the light. ‘the green can become detached from the red, which changes

choreographer. Siobhan Davies and composer Kevin Volans. ‘Kevin had started writing the

your whole emotional reaction to the work.’ Like Whiteford‘s approach to symbol and

colour, Siobhan Davies’ choreography has resonances beyond its surface patterning. Davies talks ofthe ‘distillation’ ofparticular movements into dance, rather than into abstraction. ’That’s why I think things like gesture start coming in,‘ she says. ‘Instead of broad-based general movement, you start trying to be more specific. So when I‘m trying to make movement, I‘m trying to make it deal with rhythm and space and

: time, but on top of that. I’m trying to develop

human qualities that are natural to a dancer— through gesture and sometimes more dramatic forms ofmovement.‘

Whiteford certainly seems to have enjoyed her

theatrical baptism. After a period in Sicily spent painting in a Greek amphitheatre, she produced ‘a little pop-up stage, a three-dimensional sketch of how I saw the possibilities of the set using the backdrop. the floor and the gauzes which are dropped in.‘ Her toy theatre was apparently quite a hit, even Rambert supremo Richard Alston insisted he have a hands-on session.

Seeing the finished work in place for the first

a time just before the first performance - was obviously something of a revelation, for

Whiteford as well as the dancers. ‘I had told them it was going to be red and green. but they didn‘t

quite absorb that until they saw the set. And

when they saw it that’s what really pleased me they were actually dancing around, jumping

around on it, trying it out. It had a very positive

impact on them.‘

Glasgow audiences can test out its impact for

themselves shortly, along with five other works in the current Rambert repertoire. But will anyone ever get used to their prosaic name and stop

calling them Ballet Rambert?

Rambert Dance Company is at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, 11—15 Dec. Signature can be seen on 14 and 15 Dec.

E’Iay for today

‘The thing that I like is complete freedom and I reluse to go into any niche I think that’s a terrible mistake. It the opportunity comes to make a statement it can be done in the theatre or on the top at a moor. In my mind, there’s no demarcation at all.’

George Wyllie has spent mostol1990 touring around the world and constructing his scul?tures like The Paper Boat on New York‘s wateriront. He is back in Glasgow with a version oi his 1982 play, A Day Down a Goldmine, which has been ‘pantomlsed' lor Christmas. As he explains, this is not

your run oi the mill Yuletide fare.

‘The Tramway lound itsell needing a Christmas show and said how about it, how about adding a Christmas dimension to it? The Christmas overlay is basically in the lorm oi some oi the usual pantomime tricks all done at Goldmine standard - ior instance, there’s a couple at big golden relndeers, but the message lrom The Goldmine is still the same - be suspicious.’

‘li’s a good show ior adults as well as children- children like original shows. I’m sure that a lot at the material will go overthe children’s heads, but it they don’t understand what a song about Adam Smith is all about, they can ask their dad when they get home. So we’re encouraging iamilies to come along

Scumor George Wyllle

we want to change the world through the iamily.’

Wyllie’s view at the world may be a little askew irom that at the rest at us, but there is little doubt that his messages will lind a receptive audience. 0n the subject ol whether theatre should be used to make messages, he is typically vociierous.

‘The Goldmine is setting the record right on economics, on capitalism. I’m not one at these pussy looters who says there’s no statement- of course there’s a statement otherwise you’re just lrigging about. I don’t mind admitting to there being something to take home, but it is all gift wrapped.’ (Philip Parr)

A Day Down A Goldmine is at Tramway, Glasgow irom 10—17 December.

The List 7 20 December 1990 53