Edinburgh: A gripping tale of the asylum

GISELLE

EDINBURGH FESTIVAL THEATRE

MYTHS AND fairy-tales live on as allegorical figments of human experience and longing, and so, especially, does Giselle, coloured by the emotional truth of 19th-century romanticism. It has at its core a darkly fascinating and timeless argument about love, infidelity, class divisions and madness that each new generation can explore.

Rather than indulge in fatal tinkering about the edges, like other choreographers, Mats Ek goes for a total overhaul. His Giselle for the Cullberg Ballet is a radical new interpretation with an absolute narrative logic that holds you in its fist. So Giselle's mental breakdown here is replaced by a psychological continuum, an eccentricity which distorts her demeanour from the very beginning then tips into the madness that takes her to an asylum.

Gunilla Hammar, with her eloquently supple body, deftly draws all the alarming strangeness and unpredictability that sets Giselle apart from the other villagers and prompts her brutish lover Hilarion (Rafi Sadi) to tie her to a rope like a dog. A gawky figure in a beret, she shows a primitive, immoderate joy in her physicality; she has the uninhibited simplicity of the people of her class, but in excess.

These people are rooted in nature. You see this in Marie-Louise Ekman's naive backdrop of hills, suggesting the mounds of an enlarged female nude. You notice it in the giant eggs that the peasants roll on like ritual symbols of fertility. So, when Giselle finishes up in the asylum, the setting becomes more a negation of nature with dead body parts - a finger, an ear - littering the floor like grave stones while a woman simulates a pregnant belly with a cushion.

Where bad dance is mere decoration and a weak substitute for words, Ek's choreography is concise and arresting, speaking directly to the heart, beyond words. The shapes seem to emerge from deep within the body, bold, generous curves and lines that cleave the air as if it were solid and leave an imprint in the mind's eye.

Blended within his movement is a folk-dance strand which he emphasises in Act 1 for the villagers and especially Giselle, contrasting it with the balletic elegance of George Elkin's Albrecht and his friends.

He depicts character and story through resonant imagery that sometimes echoes the original Giselle, sometimes not. In Act 1 he gives Giselle a childish slumped stance that suggests rebellion as well as fear. In Act 2, when the inmates mouths gape open in repeatedly and in unison, he evokes the hunger of man-devouring predators, or a howl of pain, or mere lunatic senselessness.

If an asylum-Giselle sounds grim, it's not. It is permeated with compassion and hope, in which Hilarion and Albrecht emerge as greater human beings. Through frugal means Ek creates a complex and compelling world, powerfully animated by the discipline and clarity of his small cast. The only pity was in the music, not because Adam's score has been chopped somewhat and has undergone re-allocation, but because on tape it seemed to stream by like patterned wallpaper.

Last performance tonight (0131-473 2000)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future