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Highland Fling - Hilarious and Uplifting: Why Can't All Ballet Be Like This

Posted: 23/05/2013 12:18

If ever there was a piece of ballet which was going to get kids and novice theatre-goers hooked on dance, then Scottish Ballet's Highland Fling is it.
Well - when else have you been to a ballet where, within five minutes, one of the perky male stars has actually mooned the audience and then been spanked for being so naughty? It was the first time I've ever heard a belly-laugh from a ballet audience.
Highland Fling is this incredible mix of ballet and Scottish reeling and swaggering Eighties disco. One moment the ballerinas are doing formal ballet moves and the next they're putting on their club faces as they discover their "inner slut".
The show is a brilliant take on the 1832 ballet La Sylphide, though now set in modern-day Glasgow by director Matthew Bourne. (He of the famous all-male Swan Lake.) Think Trainspotting in a giddy car-crash with starchy pre-Victorian ballet.
The story is fantastic. Now I know my love stories - I write love stories - and I was surprised that I didn't know this one.
James is a jobless Glaswegian welder who's about to get married to Effie. It's the night before the wedding and, as ever, James is having second thoughts. Now we all know about having second thoughts. We all wonder about them. Perhaps the grass on the other side really will be greener.
A beautiful Sylph - Sophie Martin - comes to court James, like a Siren-sprite as she tempts him and lures him away from his Effie. The Fling starts at full throttle with a pumped up disco - though they're dancing to August Bournonville's original music.
There is something utterly hilarious about the combination of this classical music with the in-yer-face loutishness of Scottish street punks. There they all are in the club toilets, just like we've seen them a hundred times before, as the women preen in the mirrors, and the men squeeze their spots and pull wedgies and piss on the guy next to them in the urinal.
The next day it's the morning after the night before. The lads are dealing with their hangovers and the women are prodding and cajoling - and the Sylph is back still trying to win James over. James, incidentally, is played by Christopher Harrison from Kippen, near Stirling, no less; he is Scottish Ballet's first ever Scottish male principal. Good on him!
The wedding eventually takes place, and again we have this jokey mix of old waltzy-style music combined with groovy modern dancing. And then, of course, because the grass is always greener, James plunges for the Sylph and she takes him away to the disaster that awaits him.
Highland Fling is uplifting, tender, hilarious. Take your kids, take your granny, even take the office layabout - no-one could fail to be charmed by this fantastic ballet.
Perhaps I should reassure you on one point. Though a number of kilts are worn in the show, the lads are always wearing briefs underneath. Not that I was looking, but my wife was very particular on the point.

 

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