RAMBER'I' DANCE COMPANY Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Tue 15—Thu 17 Jun
Almost 80 years after its first public performance, Rambert Dance Company is revisiting the scene of a rather nasty crime. Opening at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith in June 1926, A Tragedy of Fashion told of a devastated couturier who took his own life. Rejected by his most wealthy client over a below par evening gown, the dressmaker took a pair of scissors and put them to most inappropriate use. Not the nicest of subject matters, but one which heralded the arrival of Rambert and set its creator, Sir Frederick Ashton, on the road to becoming one of the finest choreographers
of the 20th century.
And yet, it was never fully recorded - no choreographic notation, and obviously no video footage to work from. Undeterred, Rambert decided to resurrect the dance to mark the centenary of Ashton’s birth in 1904. Enter lan Spink, a man who knows a thing or two about reinventing classics. The Australian choreographer/director is best known for founding Second Stride dance company with Siobhan Davies in 1982. But he’s also choreographed a host of historical texts for the RSC and Scottish Opera among others, as well as directing Noel Coward’s Private Lives for
Glasgow Citizens’ Theatre.
Playing alongside Javier de Frutos’ Elsa Canasta, Fin Walker’s Reflection, Rafael Bonachela’s Linear Remains and Ashton’s Five Brahms Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan, A Tragedy of Fashion has been a labour of love for Spink. Restoring an old master respectfully, while creating something a modern audience can enjoy, was no small task. ‘I was given a certain amount of freedom,’ he says. ‘I used as much of the original as possible as the starting point, then spent six months researching archive footage of Ashton, along with visual and biographical material from the
19205 onwards.’ (Kelly Apter)
MODERN DANCE THEENSEMBLEGROUP Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Sat 12 Jun; Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Sat 26 Jun
Stepping up a gear
64 THE LIST 10—24 Jun .9004
Norman Douglas is juggling a pile of laundry in one hand. his mobile phone in the other. Disposing of the former to talk on the latter. he tells me that earlier that day. he was busy laying a dance floor. But when he's not being a domestic goddess or handyman, Douglas is. in fact. artistic director of one of Scotland‘s
most exciting new dance companies.
Over the past four years. theensemblegroup has metamorphosed from a low-budget dance outfit playing small-scale venues to a major league company. Performing at the Festival Theatre in 2002 with Wishing for the Moon, a quadruple bill of dynamic works. it was obvious the company had moved up a gear. But now it's really joined the fast lane. This time around. not only are there more performers - 12 classically trained dancers culled from throughout Europe. Canada and South Africa — but Douglas has secured the services of three major choreographers: Christopher Hampson, Cathy Marston and Toni Mira.
Hampson is becoming a regular fixture in Scotland, with his Romeo 8 Juliet performed here last month by the Royal New Zealand Ballet. The former English National Ballet dancer has been in constant demand since switching to choreography. winning c0pious awards for his exciting classical style. His piece for theensemblegroup. Strict/Free. is a
“very modern. very touching and very stark' work for five dancers. says Douglas. whose own powerful duet. Cries and Whispers. follows Hampson on the bill. Post-interval. things get a bit lighter. with Marston's Schumann-set Dichter/iebe. Taking time out from her day job at the Royal Opera House. where she is associate artist. Marston has created a romantic tale of a poet and his wife. Portrayed by four different couples. the piece follows them from youth through to old age.
Closing the programme is Barcelonan choreographer. Toni Mira. Better known for his captivating work with Fringe regulars. Nats Nus. Mira‘s B/aue i Negra ends the show on a flamboyant note. ‘Toni's piece is completely different.’ says Douglas. ‘He's gone for salsa. flamenco. blues and Romany music — so I put him at the end simply because it's such a great finale. It’s about life. and people being challenged in every day situations. It's full of Mediterranean colours, very upbeat.‘
Quite a line-up. and one Douglas is rightly proud of. With theensemblegroup set to become the first Scottish company to play the Royal Opera House this September and a possible UK tour on the agenda. the company is entering its most exciting phase yet. Thanks in no small part to Douglas' ‘sheer bloody-mindedness. and belief that this work deserves to be seen'.
Re Treading the boards
This editorial might well be called Hoarse Whispers this issue. for Whispers is feeling distinctly under the weather after the celebrations attending the Critics' Awards for theatre in Scotland. Much revelry occurred on the day. and into the evening that followed. as this celebration of the broad range of talent in Scottish theatre brought together critics and theatre w0rkers on a warm night in Stirling. Beyond saying that the event went Swimmingly, whispers is left to announce the winners:
Best Actor (male) John Bett, for Scenes From an Execution, at Dundee Rep
Best Actor (female) Cait Davis. for Those Eyes That Mouth for Grid Iron
Best Director Dominic Hill. for Scenes From an Execution at Dundee Rep
Best Ensemble Six Black Candles at the Royal Lyceum. Edinburgh Best New Play Henry Adam. for The People Next Door tor the Traverse Theatre. Edinburgh
Best Children’s Show Arthur: The Story of a King. by Wee Stories Best Design Tom Piper. for Twelfth Night at Dundee Rep
Best Music Paddy Cuneen. for Twelfth Night at Dundee Rep
Best Technical Presentation Smoking With Lulu at the Citizens' Theatre. Glasgow
Best Production Scenes From an Execution at Dundee Rep
Most of all. the results seem to indicate a change in the climate of our theatre. with a greater willingness to engage in bigger social and political debates than the Scottish theatre has for some years evident in such big winners as Dundee Rep's Scenes From an Execution. Is this the beginning of a shift in the agendas of Scottish theatre? Look for our feature on p21. which discusses the implications of the awards for Scottish theatre.
Dominic Hill of Dundee Rep