CriticalDance Forum

Matthew Bourne's 'Highland Fling'
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Author:  kurinuku [ Mon Feb 21, 2005 12:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's 'Highland Fling'

Tartan army put to ballet

the Scotland herald

"Mine actually starts in a gent's toilet," says Bourne, with a mischievous grin. "The Sylph is dancing on a urinal in a Glasgow nightclub. It's not the world you expect to see in a ballet, certainly not one based on a nineteenth-century romantic ballet.

Author:  kurinuku [ Wed Mar 02, 2005 2:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's 'Highland Fling'

Bourne's sylphs meet Scotland of 'Trainspotting'

the Independent

Dancers rush in and out, primping, taking drugs, getting into fights. Brotherston's costumes are all tartan, kilts and lurid trousers. James's flat is dottily Scottish, decorated with antlers, tartan walls, pictures of Sean Connery. When the television is left on it plays Brigadoon.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Wed Mar 02, 2005 2:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's 'Highland Fling'

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Sadler's Wells (1500-seater) was full last night and gave a rousing reception to "Highland Fling". Whereas Bourne's completely revised version of "Nutcracker" didn't work as well as the orginal for me, this expanded revival marked an improvement on the initial production for me.

However, if you were thinking of going to Sadler's, better read this first.


Please Note
All performances, except Wednesday 2nd March 2.30pm, are now sold out.

Tickets are available for performances at the New Wimbledon Theatre


<small>[ 02 March 2005, 03:52 AM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Thu Mar 03, 2005 11:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's 'Highland Fling'

No tragic jolt from this tale of horror
By Debra Craine for The Times

WITH his Nutcracker and Swan Lake recently back in the public eye, Matthew Bourne was keen to revive his other 19th-century rewrite, Highland Fling, one of the least well-known of his stagings but one of the most important. This update of La Sylphide, made in 1994, was the first time that Bourne, who made his reputation as a jokester, took on a proper tra gedy. A
year later Highland Fling would lead directly to Swan Lake, a production so successful it became his calling card around the world.

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<small>[ 03 March 2005, 12:02 PM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Mar 04, 2005 1:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's 'Highland Fling'

A fantasy of fallen-angel sylphs
Ismene Brown for The Daily Telegraph reviews Highland Fling at Sadler's Wells

In the 1990s there was a sudden wave of rewrites of old ballets, as a younger generation of non-ballet choreographers – Mark Morris, Mats Ek and Matthew Bourne – realised what fabulous stories and music the classical ballet world possessed.

Now that Matthew Bourne has become Britain's king of the genre, it was an intriguing prospect to see his first romantic rewrite revived for major stages. The show dates back 11 years to the time when Adventures in Motion Pictures were seven dancers and a dressing-up box, known for mischievous little spoof shows around Alfred Hitchcock, Noel Coward and John Betjeman.

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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Mar 06, 2005 10:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's 'Highland Fling'

Flings ain’t what they used to be
David Dougill in The Sunday Times, yawns at Matthew Bourne

In 1994, the year before their now globally famous remake of Swan Lake, the choreographer Matthew Bourne and his designer, Lez Brotherston, created Highland Fling, another witty update of a ballet classic: that archetype of the Romantic era, La Sylphide. They subtitled it a “romantic wee ballet”, and its “weeness” — conceived for small theatres, with a cast of seven — was one of its attractions. You engaged with the characters and watched the dance at close quarters.

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Low life's low charms
Matthew Bourne's portrayal of gormless Glaswegians fails to convince. By Jann Parry for The Observer

Matthew Bourne's instinct, when he started updating famous old ballets, was to pick a strongly dramatic score to do the storytelling for him. He could then rewrite the scenario, relying on the musical power of the original. Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev were obvious choices; Herman Lovenskjold, Danish composer of La Sylphide, rather less so.

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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Mon Mar 07, 2005 12:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's 'Highland Fling'

Of the national critics, Judith Mackrell's view are closest to mine and to those of audiences, who love this work.

Highland Fling
By Judith Mackrell for The Guardian

Matthew Bourne's Highland Fling. Photo: Hugo Glendinning

Matthew Bourne is certainly working his back catalogue. After bringing Nutcracker and Swan Lake back to the stage in quick succession he now gives us Highland Fling, the 1994 work in which he transports the delicate gothic romance of La Sylphide to a modern Glasgow of high rise flats and substance abuse.

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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Mon Apr 04, 2005 11:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's 'Highland Fling'

A review of Highland Fling in the Liverpool Daily Post:

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<small>[ 04 April 2005, 01:06 PM: Message edited by: Stuart Sweeney ]</small>

Author:  kurinuku [ Mon Apr 11, 2005 2:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's 'Highland Fling'

New adventures in the classical style
by KELLY APTER for the Scotsman

"I tend to shy away from making social and political statements because I don’t like dictating to people," says Bourne. "But I have tried to build up this idea that ultimately James wants normality, and this yearning for something exciting and different will eventually pass. It’s not a message, it’s something we all know already."

published: April 11, 2005

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Mon Apr 18, 2005 12:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Matthew Bourne's 'Highland Fling'

Tartan tale with the force of a Glasgow kiss
Highland Fling is full of naff Scottish stereotypes, and that’s what makes it so good, says Dan Bye for The Sunday Times

Stereotypes of Scots have long prevailed in popular culture. While the comedian Harry Lauder was famously dubbed “Scotland’s greatest ambassador” by Winston Churchill, his legacy to his homeland was an image of the Scot as a purse string-clenching, Highland dress-wearing sentimentalist.

Even today, caricatures abound in shows such as Little Britain with its fey Highland hotel owner. But high culture is no stranger to cliche either. In his 1994 ballet Highland Fling, currently revised and en route to Scotland, the choreographer Matthew Bourne takes the Tunnock’s wafer biscuit.

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Author:  kurinuku [ Thu Apr 21, 2005 6:35 am ]
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Filthy fairies choose life
by JACKIE McGLONE for the Scotland on Sunday

He and his saucy dancers, Bourne reveals playfully, have rude nicknames for the sylphs who populate the Trainspotting-style world of his Highland Fling, the revival of which comes to Scotland later this month. Ticking the grubby ghouls off on his fingers, he reveals: "They are Pox, Syphilis, Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea. We don’t put that in the programme." Thankfully, such nicknames have nothing to do with what happens on stage.

published: April 17, 2005

Author:  ksneds [ Tue Apr 26, 2005 5:37 pm ]
Post subject: 

Highland Fling
Edinburgh Festival Theatre
Edinburgh, Scotland
April 26, 2005

Sylphs, kilts and seedy bars?! The revamped version of "Highland Fling", which transplants the classic story of "La Sylphide" from from picturesque glens to rundown Glasgow, took Edinburgh by storm on Thursday evening. Playing to a packed Edinburgh Festival Theatre, the fist Scottish audience to see the new version of Matthew Bourne's 1994 production, the eleven-strong cast delivered a sensational performance, equal parts power, cheek and grit.

Originally brought to the ballet stage by Maria Taglioni and August Bournonville, "La Sylphide" is the classic story of unattainable love, a love that appears in the form of an alluring sylph. James, a Scotsman, is seduced by the sylph on his wedding night, leaving his fiancée Effie in the wake. But the sylph is not his to have, and his very attempts to keep her end up killing her, leaving his world shattered. In "Highland Fling", Matthew Bourne cleverly brings the story forward several centuries into 1990s Glasgow, a setting partly inspired by Irvine Welsh's "Trainspotting".

Our hero is now a welder on the dole, who opens the performance by stumbling onto the stage/seedy bar bathroom drunk and high, only to pass out on a urinal. It is here that the sylph appears, irritating, but yet alluring to James' foggy mind.

Played by native Abderdonian James Leece, James is good-natured Glaswegian lad, who's life is defined only by his carousing and his impending nuptials to sweet Effie. Thus, it's no wonder that Mireille Noi Tolmer's creepy, hyperkinetic sylph is so intriguing; she's a distraction, a way out from the dead end of his life. Much more interesting than the weekly dole check, much more intoxicating than a pint of cheap lager.

Leece is quite tall, sometimes seeming to tower over his castmates, but the impressive Tolmer matches him in presence and power, only appearing fragile in the very end when James' clips her wings. The two are an interesting pairing, for the size difference allows Leece to lift and fling her, but also results in the occasional awkward moment, when he must bend down interact with her. Leece, Royal Ballet trained, gives his character a believable, guy-next-door feeling, but shines in the dance sequences. He is lanky, but not gangly, with legs that were built for kilts.

The story plays out in James' council flat, both his flat and friends outfitted in a cacophony of tartans. A slightly over the top version of Scotland no doubt, but Lez Brotherston's designs also bring out the personalities in each character. Everyone wears plaid, but in the own style - geeky, sleek, good-girl, studly, flirty et al. Phillip Willingham was sweetly cheeky as Gurn, James' friend who is clearly attracted to Effie. As Madge, Gemma Payne is no witch, but a clever tarot card reader, who desires James for her own.

In the midst of the wedding preparations, the sylph reappears, playing havoc with James' mind and the apartment (kudos to the stagehands for getting all the Scott's Porridge Oats off the floor!). This is not the docile, innocent sylph of the romantic ballet, but an impetuous, crafty, empowered being.

The score is based heavily on the original Lovenskjold music, mixed with the occasional Scottish song, but the choreography is decidedly Bourne. The wedding celebration dances have Scottish character, but mixed angled arms, low turns and sense of earthiness. No fairy-tale land this be; feet are firmly on the floor. And the cast is in fine fettle, bounding and striding.

In a deviation from the original storyline, it is not until after his wedding that James is finally overcome by the allure of the sylph, and throws himself out the window to follow her away. James either has a first floor flat or great luck, because he lands not on the concrete below, but in a debris strewn clearing. Here he meets the rest of the sylphs, male and female spirits dressed in white dresses or kilts, grime bespattered and dreadlocked.

Bourne's choreography is at its most intriguing and inventive in the ensuing series of dances for the sylphs. The dancing is as much focused on the movement as the poses in between, and at several points the dancers, bent limbed and hunched, look for all the world like a forest of old, gnarled trees.

The sylphs are also earthy creatures, not delicate or ethereal, their presence reinforced by audible footsteps and loud exhalations. And this weighty choreography brings them down into the stage, the earth, rather than lifting them up and away. Thus it is appropriate that the ill-fated couple flee on foot (but not before the sylph grabs here sylph-white suitcase, tragedy ensuing when James clips her wings. Dripping blood she dies in James' arms, he dances till he can no longer.

In the end, we return to James's flat, now occupied by Effie and Gurn, sitting side by side in matching plaid bathrobes. The happy (perhaps) couple are oblivious to the apparition outside - it is James, now a sylph hovering by the window.

Unique and intriguing, with it's cheeky view of Scottish life, this new version of "Highland Fling" was a clearly success in Edinburgh. Bourne takes a story with universal meaning, and filters it through the modern Scottish look on life. And sprinkles it with bits of Scots "culture", which made it accessible to the audience, especially one so appreciative of the subtle jokes. A masterpiece no, but most definitely a grand way to spend a Scottish spring night!

Author:  kurinuku [ Sat Apr 30, 2005 10:25 am ]
Post subject: 

Highland fling
by KELLY APTER for the Scotsman

Bourne has often been accused of focusing more on drama than dance, but Highland Fling has almost as much choreography as the original ballet.

published: April 28, 2005

Author:  kurinuku [ Sat Apr 30, 2005 10:28 am ]
Post subject: 

Pure entertainment with heartstrings attached
by MARTIN LENON for the Edinburgh Evevning News

In a fast-paced adaptation of La Sylphide, a dizzying cast of characters were introduced and developed so quickly, that within ten minutes, the whole cast were old friends with the audience.

published: April 29, 2005

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun May 01, 2005 3:12 am ]
Post subject: 

Ellie Carr has a ball at "Highland Fling"; her views accord closely with my own. This is one of Bourne' funniest works with a killer punch in the tail.

Bourne’s tartan special
By Ellie Carr for The Sunday Herald

It takes a bold Englishman to put on a show in Scotland called Highland Fling. Especially when the production in question features wall-to-wall tartan, plays fast and loose with Auld Lang Syne and other Caledonian icons (Sean Connery and Lulu amongst them), and depicts the good people of Glasgow as pill-popping, Export- swilling reprobates.
But if anyone can do it, Matthew Bourne can. And in this revival of his 1994 Highland Fling – the work he made before his spunky reinventions of The Nutcracker and Swan Lake made him one of the biggest names in dance – he achieves the nigh-on impossible.

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