Tamsin Grainger profiles innovative dance company Second Stride and talks to Artistic Director and dancer Ian Spink about his Escape at Sea.
‘This project could either be brilliant or a total disaster.’ Lauren Potter. a dancer in Second Stride’s Escape at Sea declared recently. ‘I was really ﬂattered when Anthony McDonald asked me tojoin a cast of mature women. but it means he's certainly had his hands full’. Potter is working alongside such legendary names as Lynn Seymour and Lucy Burge in this multi-formed. physical dance theatre work which visits Tramway this month.
Seymour is probably as well-known for leaving the Royal Ballet, as she is for being there when she perfected the characters of Juliet and Manon for the late Artistic Director of the Royal. Kenneth McMillan. The rumours of herjoining a punk band back in I983. and her outrageous performance at a fundraising show at London’s Sadler‘s Wells Theatre the year after made her a household name. As lan Spink, Artistic Director of Second Stride. explains. it is her name which attracted some of their early audiences. ‘Considering that they booked on the strength of Seymour’s reputation and probably expected to see her in a ballet. it was astonishing to see them sitting there absolutely glued to the stage for one-and-a-half hours.’
Alternatively. Lucy Burge. like Potter and the other dancers. is from the contemporary fold. Having performed with London Contemporary Dance Theatre for years, and carving out a really individual name for herself in such works as Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan by Frederick Ashton, Burge is another famous name to conjure with.
In fact, Second Stride is full of them. Unlike so many other companies which exist solely for
youngsters new to the scene. Second Stride was set up as a collective of three of Britain‘s most
experienced choreographers. Richard Alston.
Siobhan Davies and Ian Spink. back in 1982. Neither
a repertory company. nor a vehicle for straight.
, collaboration of artists from different media right
; from the start and has produced some of the most
challenging full-length shows of recent times.
McDonald is the Associate Director of Second
Stride and a designer by trade. Like Spink. he is
familiar with opera and theatre as well as dance. having designed for English National Opera (Billy Budd) and Scottish Opera (The Mir/summer Marriage). He has wound several thematic strands
into his directorial debut. using the original French Sleeping Beauty tale and Chekhov’s The Seagull as
‘Two of the French dancers tell us bits ofthe
' Sleeping Beauty story at the start of each section.’
says Spink. ‘On one hand it is a very simple way of
' it is a very subtle device showing the audience that
i there is a language that they don‘t necessarily
abstract dance. Second Stride championed the idea of
l indicating the beginning of a new part. On the other.
5 understand.‘ This. of course. creates an appropriate l parallel with the language of movement which audiences so often have difficulty fathorning.
Another of McDonald’s themes arises from The Seagull and the idea of people leaving one country : for a ‘happier‘ life elsewhere. ‘A few people left Russia at the begining of the Revolution and subsequently people have tried to escape to America,‘ says Spink. ‘The fact is that people in the West also often discover that they need to move. Whether it is a personal journey that they have to make or a physical one this is something that interested Anthony.‘
The passages of pure dance are interspersed with essential scenes from The Seagull, in Russian. spoken by the dancers. Live vocals and celebratory music by systems composer and long-time collaborator Orlando Gough accompanies all. and lighting design by the acclaimed Peter Mumford completes what is clearly going to be a total experience.
Escape at Sea. 'I‘ramivay, Glasgow. l’ri I 9—Sal 20 Nov.
[- Darker half
Being one oi the brighter British stars In the ﬁlm and theatre iirmament means that Brian Cox casts quite a large shadow. You could be iorgiven, tor Instance, In assuming that not only Is Cox the lead actor In The lioyal Lyceum production oi Ibsen’s The Master Builder, but that he’s also directing, designing, and making the tea for the rest oi the cast In his spare moments.
This Isn’t due to an outbreak oi egomanle irom that prodigal Scot whose roles have ranged irom serial
killer Hannibal lecter to senile raver King Lear, It’s more an indication oi how willing marketing types are to publicise their marketables. Cox
-. equals box oiiice cash, and it’s a
l situation that John Crowley, who occupies the somewhat over- shadowed position oi co-director, is periectly willing to accept.
‘Obviously Brian is the star oi the show,’ explains Crowley, an Irish philosophy graduate, ‘and that’s what’s selling seats. But the whole 2 process oi working with him has been i very organic, we’ve all been willing to accept suggestions and changes.’
l ‘We work In tandem, and there are
! times when he really needs to
‘ concentrate on the acting, when he needs to concentrate on the character ior three hours without a break, and
i there are times when he really wants
to icons on the directing. I take my
I’ll do the other.’
It’s a system which has been nurtured by the ‘Builshit-iree environment’ the directors have created: ‘The BBC have been iilming the rehearsals and they want to pick up on the angle oi human tension - I keep thinking It’s going to turn out like Spinal Tap or something - and they keep saying ‘But it can’t be all roses’. But It has been, there’s been no shouting or storming out. Not yet. It’s all going to happen tonight.’ (Stephen Chester)
The Master Builder, Royal lyceum, Edinburgh, Fri 19 IIov—Sat 11 Dec.
The List 19 November-2 December r993 49
lead irom him and whatever he’s doing