The push and pull of romantic intimacy is explored in Fleur Darkin and Scottish Dance Theatre’s astonishing new collaboration with The One Ensemble and designer Alexander Ruth, whose bamboo stalks line the stage, and who uses a silver chained partition, next to grass on a patch of ground, creating a kind of ‘portal’ into another world . Here, love is uncomfortably juxtaposed with brutality and a simmering fear, where battlelines are drawn, and responses unreliable.
Bookended by a frenzied, almost Shamanistic leaping first by Amy Hollinshead, latterly the ensemble, there is a violence in much of the choreography. Dancers crash to the floor,with some getting tangled and scratched by the bamboo cane.Some are stained with mud, others with chalk. Many are bruised. There is an almost uncomfortable closeness at times, and dancers Matthew Robinson and Francesco Ferrari, in trancelike state, stare back at the audience with a kind of defiance.
As some pair off, often carrying each other and clinging together for support, others remain in solo mode. Brian Caillet, who disappers then returns a little later in a beaded robe, remains an outsider figure throughout, dancing alone for much of the time, finally selecting a ‘chosen one’ in Ferrari, whom he brings a kind of pagan head dress.
Groping for meaning and for each other, it is as though the cast are the last of a dying world, set to repopulate and start again but who to trust? They are dressed in dark robes, or white gowns and black draping suggestive of medieval healers.
The One Ensemble’s live soundtrack adds extra layers to the drama, ebbing and flowing, and builds to an incredible crescendo, using chants, unearthly yet beautiful harmonies and yelps woven into cello, accordion and clarinets. One or two dancers emerge from their space.
The ambiguity of the dancers’ ascribed roles are problematic in narrative terms, however. The tone of building a kind of new society may be clear, but such abstraction in presentation often jars a little it is hard to root for any one protagonist when the motivation of each is unclear, and they are in many ways pitted against one another. Nonetheless, it all comes together in the ensemble work, which is breathtaking in its stillness and discomfitting quietude; then building to a robust finale.
Miann’s translation from Gaelic is ‘longing’ or ‘desire’, and this piece, complemented by The One Ensemble’s incredible fiery music for another time and place, may have its flaws, but is still a gorgeous piece to get lost in, with many stunning moments. A worthy addition to the Made in Scotland showcase this year, and a real Summerhall highlight.