For decades, Richard Alston has been one of Britain’s finest exponents of abstract contemporary dance. Now, however, it would seem he’s also rather good at telling a story.

Alston first dipped his toe in narrative waters in 2009, with Scottish Ballet’s hugely successful Carmen. His latest work, Out of the Strong, may not have quite so straightforward a storyline, but is rich with characterisation. ‘Choreographers aren’t always right about their own work, but I think this is one of the best pieces I’ve done for a long time,’ says Alston. ‘I loved making it, and I think the narrative elements are post- Carmen. This is the first piece I’ve made since then, and it’s interesting that I had to deal with telling a story in Carmen and there is certainly a lot of human content in this.’

Inspired by the life of Sergei Prokofiev, the piece opens with an anger-filled solo, set during the era when he was beholden to Stalin. This is followed by

happier times spent in Europe with his first wife, a section when the Russian composer was preparing for the opening night of his ballet Romeo and Juliet, and finally Prokofiev’s postwar life in Russia with his second wife. ‘There’s a lot in there,’ says Alston, ‘and I’ve called it Out of the Strong because in spite of his anger, in the end Prokofiev is probably best known for writing really lyrical music. And I think by dealing with his anger he got back to what he could do so positively.’

Performed alongside Alston’s 1997 masterpiece, Light Flooding into Darkened Rooms and his joyfully uplifting Shuffle it Right, Out of the Strong is set to Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No 6 a piece Alston found particularly enjoyable.

‘I’d been listening to various pieces of Prokofiev and came across this particular sonata and was completely enthralled by it,’ recalls Alston. ‘There’s a lot of quite intense feeling in it, because at that time he was very much under the thumb of Stalin and in quite some danger. But it’s the most brilliant piece of music and it was a real pleasure to work with.’ (Kelly Apter)


This might be their first full-length show in Scotland but Proto-type Theatre are no strangers to Glasgow. The company, founded in 1997 in New York City, enjoyed a brief residency at the CCA before establishing its current home in Lancaster in 2006. Four years later, having gained a reputation for innovative theatre and live art with productions Whisper and Virtuoso, they’re touring the UK with their newest work, Third Person: Bonnie and Clyde Redux. According to writer and artistic

director Peter S Petralia, the show builds on the group’s past formal experimentations but maintains a sparse, lo-fi feel. ‘We really explore the idea of what it means to be on stage,’ he says. ‘We don’t so much tell the story of Bonnie and Clyde, rather we raise a lot of questions of what it means to be obsessed with people who were murderers. So it’s useful not to come expecting to hear the whole narrative spelled out in minute detail because this is not that show.’

Instead, Petralia describes the production as an ‘autopsy’ of the legendary tale, told simply through two actors and an overhead projector. And ultimately, he credits the performers with much of its success. ‘What I really like about the show is the way that the two performers seduce the audience into liking them, and then make you question whether you should be liking them at all. It really humanises the figures of Bonnie and Clyde, who are very much romanticised but were also brutal killers.’ (Yasmin Sulaiman)

PREVIEW CONTEMPORARY DANCE DISGO Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thu 18 & Fri 19 Nov

What do you think about when you’re on the dancefloor? Be it in a dimly lit nightclub or at a family wedding, chances are something’s running through your mind. That’s the question Fleur Darkin asked hundreds of people when researching her company’s latest work, Disgo.

‘It revealed lots of interesting things,’ says Darkin. ‘A grandmother in her 50s said she thought about all the videos she’d seen on MTV, and a male writer said he tried to make himself bigger and stronger than any women around him.’ Armed with the survey results, Darkin went on to shape a unique dance show where the lines between audience and performer are distinctly blurred.

‘Most dance that you pay to see is something you stay at a distance from,’ she says. ‘But I think dancing is more compelling when you’re in it, and around it, and it actually affects you physically. So the audience and the cast all share the same space in the Traverse.’

With no seats or centre stage, but plenty of room to move and atmospheric

lighting to illuminate the space, Disgo relies heavily on audience participation but of the unthreatening variety. ‘We wrote a manifesto which governs the rules of what we do,’ explains Darkin. ‘So we’re not there to humiliate anybody or put a gun to their head to make them do anything. Because the audience is so near the action, they’re in it and are critical to it, but they’re not under a spotlight.’ (Kelly Apter)


82 THE LIST 4–18 Nov 2010