REQUIEM Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Tue 25 Feb—Sat 1 Mar

Jonathan Ollivier has landed some plum parts during his past few seasons with Northern Ballet Theatre: Stanley in a dance adaptation of Tennessee Williams‘ A Streetcar Named Desire, Heathcliff in a version of Wufhering Heights. But how do you prepare to embody a universal inevitability like Death?

That was the challenge in German choreographer Birgit Scherzer’s barefoot ballet Requiem!!, created in 1991 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. Of the 16 dancers in NBT‘s cast, only Ollivier plays the same role throughout the work’s 75 minutes. There are other characters, including a protagonist in each of the piece‘s three sections identified _ ‘— only as ‘M' -- stand-ins for Requiem for Mozart Mozart, or mankind. But, whether feared or embraced, it’s Death who links them.

‘Everyone has to face death,’ says Scherzer. ‘Nobody can flee.‘ To that end, the stage becomes a closed room that represents life, but is also Death‘s domain. ‘I work, too, with ropes, suitcases, shoes and umbrellas, all of which have a symbolism for me. The audience may have its own associations for these things.‘

Scherzer rearranged Mozart’s final, unfinished score, adding musical fragments. Worries that this would draw the wrath of Mozart fanatics were unnecessary. ‘The movement and music come together,’ she says. ‘You don’t have the feeling it‘s the wrong order.’

Requieml! is not biographical. ‘Anyone who knows a bit about Mozart can make parallels to his life,’ Scherzer admits, ‘but even if you know nothing about him you can understand everything in the dance.’

Aren’t the titular exclamation points overkill? ‘In 1991 the marketing of Mozart was so overdone. “Requiem” means “rest”. I wanted a way to say: “Please, give Mozart his silence."‘

Northampton-born Ollivier, 25, sees his role as a combination of superhuman strength and human feelings. ‘Death is quite cool and calm, but the dance itself is very emotional.‘ Ollivier‘s sinewy muscularity serves him well. ‘Death does things on ropes that make him look like he‘s flying, stepping in big circles, or hovering overhead just waiting to say: “All right, that’s enough. End it now."’

Ollivier regards Requiem” as a slight departure for a company known for dramatic narrative ballets. ‘This is different from a big production with a strong storyline. Hopefully it will be as much of an eye-opener for audiences as it is for us. If they‘re not enjoying the dancing, the music —- with full choir and orchestra -- will be beautiful. So there‘s something for everyone.’ His personal attitude towards death? ‘l’m not scared.’ (Donald Hutera)

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Tramway, Glasgow. until Fri 14

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sco‘r'tis'iim‘n'c: H THEATRE Dundee Rep. Thu 20—Sat 22 Feb