CONTEMPORARY DANCE Shobana Jeyasingh
Dance Company Edinburgh: Traverse Sat 20 Mar.
'It's about taking a movement and shaking it,’ says brainy, London- based choreographer Shoban Jeyasingh. She's talking about her newest dance, the exhilaratingly chaotic Fine Frenzy, but she could be describing the creative path of her remarkable career to date.
Trained in the classical bharata natyam of southern India, Jeyasingh has spent the last ten years fashioning a unique position for herself as a UK dance innovator. She’s commissioned scores from such composers as Michael Nyman, won prestigious awards (like the Prudential, worth a fairly impressive £100,000) and pushed us across enough cultural demarcation lines to make us look at dance with fresh eyes. She's taken a whole art form and shaken it, rendering her company’s upcoming Scottish dates a must-see (as well as the Traverse gig, Jeyasingh will return north to perform at Stirling’s MacRobert Arts Centre on 29 April).
Last year's Memory & Other Props is a glittering, Proustian breeze, and something of a career retrospective
Shakin' all over: Shobana .leyasingh
(the Alistair McDonald scored piece was commisioned in celebration of the company's anniversary). Jeyasingh subverts and enlarges the curving, angular architecture of bharata natyam, with its long, arcing arms, carefully positioned fingers, weighty balances and flattened footstamps. Here her six-strong, elegant female dancers field the reflective, fragmentary patterns she throws their way. They race like wind-driven sailboats or between spidery, sports-derived stances of offence and defence. One head butts up against another's branching limb. Strides are literally measured. Tiny moments of tender respite are washed ashore on urgent waves of controlled emotion.
Fine Frenzy is even better, a dazzling, jolting rollercoaster ride over the millennial edge. The look is
candy coloured neon, the pace non-stop. This channel- surfing dance takes it’s cue from Django Bates' cacophony of progressive, occasionally mournful jazz. The music is given extra depth by virtue of being played live by the accomplished Apollo Saxophone Quartet. The piece as a whole is both a product of, and comment upon, our overloaded, explosive information age. .leyasingh crams in a lot without weighing us down. Hers is smart choreography that packs a visceral punch.
Jeyasingh’s dancers have occasionally been criticised for the inconsistency of their performances. At recent London shows, however, they negotiated her speedy directional shifts with absolute aplomb. Dancing this alert, tense and plain gorgeous doesn't come along that often. (Donald Hutera)
FAMILIAL DRAMA Learning The Paso Doble
Edinburgh: Traverse Thu l—Sun 4 Apr thentounng.
Dilys Rose: Mourning Glory
There must be sometl'irng mournful in the arr One of the key scenes in Perfect Days takes plate Just after a funeral, while Peter Mullan's forthcoming film Orphans is set in the
56 l8 Mar-I Apt lggg
twenty four hours leading up to that dreaded slow drive to the LOTTIf'IOl‘,’ And now, poet and author Dilys Rose has chosen the aftermath of a maternal death as the subject matter for her first play, Learning The Paso Doble.
Although her play was written in Ignorance of both Lot‘lihead and Mullan’s work, Rose is unsurprised to find others are drawn to explore ll‘rzs area of human exrstence 'A death of a parent is a very large event,’ she says 'lt changes things in ways that you may not expect. PeOple take on different roles. In the case of a mother dying, it can greatly affert the relationship between grown up daughters and their father that's one of the things we're looking at, one of the things the play is about On another level, it’s about food, frorks and family frrc‘trons.’ The family lll question must face up to their domineering matriarch Pearl, who seems to exert an enormous influente upon them even from beyond the grave.
The writer was thrilled when Stellar Quines Theatre Company a;.)proa(lred her wrth the offer of a (.orrirniss‘ron,
and she has retained her enthusiasm despite the different demands of the stage disCIpline 'l have to imagine things physically that actors have to do, rather than Just painting a picture in a reader’s imagination,’ she says ’I have to have (haratters come in through a certain door and leave through another ' And after years enduring the sortiewhat .sol.tary nature of an author '.s life, entering the creative two way street that is theatre has proved a rewarding experience. 'l've entoyed the totiaborative process so rnut’h,’ she enthuses 'lt tan ()et a bit lonely ‘."J()lklll(t on your own sometimes I've found that I get so rtittth hark from the actors In terms of what’s working and what isn’t. Everybody has so mut h to contrrbute.’
Surh is the appeal of playwrtttng for Rose that although she yxill continue to write poetry and fittion, she has several other theatrical projects up her sleeve Neither of them Will be Scottish set, however ‘One is an American family drama,’ she says. And the other. "That's something i (ante up With when Stellar Quines first asked me to write for them It's about vestal vrrqins in ancient Rome '
PHYSICAL THEATRE Sell Out
Edinburgh: Traverse Theatre, Wed 24 & Thu 25 Mar.
When award-winning physical theatre group Frantic Assembly decided to opt for a change of direction, it was good news for writer Michael Wynne. A long term admirer of the company's work, Wynne was intrigued by the challenge the new show presented. ’Their other shows had been qurte up, quite fun, but they wanted to do something darker,’ he recalls. ’They came up with the idea of doing a piece about how the people who know each other best can hurt each other most.‘
Both Frantic and Wynne believe that it's your muckers, rather than blood relatives who have the power to do the most psychological damage. Living in a big crty away from your family, friends become vital,’ says the writer. ‘lt’s become a cliche after Friends and This Life, but i definitely think it’s true.’ The theme is made explicit in the text itself: 'One of the characters’ opening monologue is about how "friends are the new family" and they're the most important thing in her life, to the extent that she can't have a relationship with anybody outside of that orcle.’
The piece came together in quite an unusual fashion, even for physical theatre. The company had a fairly strong idea of the central premise before finalising arrangements with the writer: in fact, they’d even started to advertise its content. ’They’d actually done the publicity for the show before I started writing, which was a bit worrying,‘ recalls Wynne. ’I put one of the posters up behind my computer to remind me what it was supposed to be about.’ Already several months into a tour, the show has provoked debate wherever it's been performed. ’lt’s strange how different audiences have reacted,’ says Wynne. 'The characters get quite abusive with each other, and sometimes the audience laughs, and sometimes they’re horrified. I'm happy With either reaction.’ (Rob Fraser)
Friendly Persuasion: Sell Out
STAR RATINGS a w if R‘ we unmissable e st st: it Very good at ,t— 5* Worth a shot it it Below average w You've been warned