“An evening of tremendous contrast” is how it was billed, and
BOY, they weren’t freaking kidding. From the choice of a shot of black Sambucca or a flute of pink when we arrived, the scene was set for a game of two very different halves. Champagne
First up Christopher Hampson’s brutal Rite of Spring. I was not prepared.
I should have been though, because I was chatting with Ann from Scottish Ballet before curtain up (while shamelessly gorging on giant pretzels) and she warned me that Rite would most likely make me feel “sick, but in a good way.” I don’t know about the good way bit, but I definitely felt a bit queasy by the end.
I don’t mind admitting that the story was, at first, confusing. Two brothers awaken and seem to frolic around, spending a lot of time chasing each other and stopping to pray or perform rituals or “rites.” From the outset it’s clear that one brother is obviously more in control than the other, but then all of a sudden something changes, and some serious shit goes down.
Hampson’s set is like a concave padded cell, cut off disturbingly half way up the wall creating an uncomfortably low ceiling so as to heighten the claustrophobia. The lack of scenery and context makes the brutal shift in atmosphere all the more disturbing. Things between the brothers get violent. Terrifying. Tragic. And Stravinsky’s relentless score only adds to the tension.
It’s a beautiful but painful assault on the senses. There are some horrible scenes that make it hard to watch – at times it felt to me like the younger brother was less a human and more a tortured animal in a cage – but it’s lifted into enjoyment by incredible choreography. If ever you forget the huge physical and emotional toll ballet takes, Rite will remind you.
After all that, with the audience still reeling, it was time for Elite Syncopations – something just about as far away from the previous billing as I think it’s possible to get.
In Kenneth MacMillan’s romp, the whole company appear on stage in a kind of 1900s music hall, decked out in psychedelic body-skimming costumes by designer Ian Spurling, each one hand-painted and patterned with arrows, or stars and stripes, buttons or bows. The effect is clown like, but just on this side of ridiculous.
A real 12-piece band also appears on stage in the background, similarly outfitted, playing ragtime classics by Scott Joplin and his contemporaries, and it’s a welcome change which really brings the music hall atmosphere to life. There’s a party happening on stage and I want to go.
There was no “story” as such this time, but plenty of LOL moments as the colourful characters flirted with each other and competed for the limelight, with the breathtaking skill of making it all look so bloomin easy.
We took along with us a ballet virgin last night, and I can’t think of a more perfect double bill than this by way of an introduction. Both sides of the ballet coin are expertly and beautifully represented here – one piece haunting, brutal and affecting, the other funny, engaging and uplifting.
The Rite of Spring and Elite Syncopations is on at the Theatre Royal in
for tonight and tomorrow night only and tickets are still available here: http://www.scottishballet.co.uk/autumn-2013/the-rite-of-spring-and-elite-syncopations.html Glasgow
I can’t urge you strongly enough to go. GO!