Monday, 6 October 2014

Bruce Again

Less than 24 hours after seeing Rambert's Rooster in Manchester, I saw Christopher Bruce's face in another programme. This time it was for Ten Poems which was part of the double bill The Crucible with Ten Poems which Scottish Ballet danced at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh.

Shortly before the show, I tweeted:
I did.

The two works had quite a lot in common. Rooster was choreographed to familiar songs.  Ten Poems to equally familiar poems. There was similar precision and control in the choreography in both works. Marian Bruce who designed the sets and costumes of Rooster also designed the costumes and sets for Ten Poems. But there were differences. There is much less light and joy in Thomas's verse than in the music of The Rolling Stones. Do not go gentle into that good night danced by Andrew Peasgood and Chris Harrison had me close to tears. On the other hand, having seen men push women around in Rooster I derived some satisfaction at masculine comeuppance in Lament. There weren't too many laughs in Ten Poems unlike Rooster but the plucking gesture in the general neighbourhood "of the old ram rod, dying of women" by one of those women generated one of them. Indeed a guffaw of (mainly) female laughter.

The other work in the double bill was Helen Pickett's The Crucible.  This followed closely Arthur Miller's play which I first saw performed by the National Theatre at The Old Vic at about the same time as I was introduced to Dylan Thomas's poetry. It is about the Salem witch trials which resulted in the execution of some 20 people in 1692 for the crime of witchcraft. Each of those condemned was convicted on the evidence of a scheming teenager who manipulated her friends and through them the whole colony of Massachusetts into a hysterical frenzy. Miller wrote The Crucible as a study of mass hysteria and the irrationality of group think as Senator McCarthy was ending the careers of some of America's leading figures in the arts with groundless or exaggerated allegations of Communist sympathy.

There were very strong performances by Sophie Martin as Abigail Wlliams, Chris Harrison as John Procter and Eve Mutso as his wife, Elizabeth Procter.  Indeed, the whole cast were great. Tense and dramatic it was in many ways more powerful than the play. Charles Heightchew's designs and George Thomson's lighting were striking, particularly the last scene with a silhouette of the gallows and a prisoner ascending to his doom.

The double bill is moving on to Aberdeen having started in Glasgow and having also visited Inverness as well as Edinburgh but sadly it will not be seen outside Scotland, at least not for the moment. That is a pity because we don't see enough of Scottish Ballet south of the border. It does a season at the Wells, of course, and makes it down to Newcastle occasionally but not to Bristol where it was born or Leeds where its first cousin if not sister company through Laverne Meyer now resides. Its family resemblance to Northern Ballet is remarkable. We in Leeds and I am sure the folk in Bristol and indeed the rest of the nation would welcome it with open arms if it could be persuaded to pay us all a visit.

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