Highland Fling

High roads, low roads - MacBourne takes them all

Ladies and gentlemen, Pina Bausch has left the building. Although the high priestess of contemporary dance-theatre and Matthew Bourne are both director/ choreographers, not only are their names rarely in the same sentence, their work looks as if it comes from different galaxies.

Ladies and gentlemen, Pina Bausch has left the building. Although the high priestess of contemporary dance-theatre and Matthew Bourne are both director/ choreographers, not only are their names rarely in the same sentence, their work looks as if it comes from different galaxies.

Bausch once declared she is "not interested in how people move, but what moves them". The secret of Bourne's work is that he is interested in what moves audiences. This is not to be confused with pandering to safe, popular taste. For starters, people who thought they wouldn't be caught dead at dance have succumbed to its visceral thrill via the sheer drama of Bourne's best work.

No one has yet choreographed Trainspotting (I know everyone's looking for youth audiences but, please, no) but you might imagine that's what you're in for with the initial image of Highland Fling. It opens in a Glasgow urinal with a man collapsing in a drug-induced haze. But Bourne's subtitle is "a romantic wee ballet" and that's exactly what's on offer here.

The Scottish setting and the appearance of a winged sylph alert balletomanes to the fact that this is a reworking of La Sylphide, one of the oldest ballets in the repertoire. And although Bourne appears to be taking liberties, he actually remains close to the original story of a bridegroom who comes to a sticky end when he jilts his childhood sweetheart on their wedding day to run off with a sylph.

The darker side of the story is largely reserved for the second act, a reflection both of the exposition and Herman Lovenskøld's score, which only gradually deepens into grandeur. Prior to that, Bourne has fun choreographing stag-night shenanigans, with James, the chemically enhanced, kilted hero kicking off with abandon. In adjoining toilets the boys pose and the girls preen before getting together for a spot of dancing which swiftly spins off into lager-drinking, coke-snorting, sex-driven hedonism only steps away from a syncopated group grope. This is typical Bourne character-comedy, a style he learned from Frederick Ashton (although his mentor never choreographed head-butts).

Initially, Lez Brotherston's sets are very Hanna-Barbera-ish - all highly coloured, Fifties-style jaunty angularity - while his costumes are a Scots take on Nineties trash. (The piece was created in 1994 and this is its first major revival.) But by the over-hung morning-after-the-night-before, the look is definitely The Clash of The Tartans. Absolutely everything is plaid and none of it matches. Indeed, the whole show is so Scottish that the only thing you don't get is Moira Anderson and the White Heather Club. Even the choreography reels in everything from a Scots sword dance to what looks suspiciously like the Dashing White Sergeant.

James chases the impish sylph throughout the second half. Once captured, the two of them make love, yet James swiftly tires of her otherness and in order to possess her completely, shears off her wings. It's a genuinely shocking moment. She teeters onstage, her botched back awash with blood: the final scenes pack the punch which has hitherto been missing. This isn't Bourne's fault. His primary source is always the music and Lovenskøld is no Tchaikovsky.

Nonetheless, the closing scene, where James's now aged friends remember him - as they sit forlornly by the window from which he leaped to his death - is surprisingly moving. A touch of Peter Pan, maybe Edward Scissorhands. Now there's a good idea for a dance work. And that's exactly what Bourne's doing next.

'Highland Fling' is touring the UK. For details, visit www.new-adventures.net

Jenny Gilbert is away

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Arts and Entertainment
All-new couples 'Come Dine With Me'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne
musicReview: BST Hyde Park, London
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Gamble and Amy Hoggart star in Almost Royal burning bright productions
tvTV comedy following British ‘aristos’ is accused of mocking the trusting nature of Americans
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial