Liam Rudden: Scottish Ballet dances to a different tune in ‘Trainspotting’ ballet

Scottish Ballet perform Matthew Bourne's Highland Fling
Scottish Ballet perform Matthew Bourne's Highland Fling
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IT was an email from Nicola Cutler at Scottish Ballet that persuaded me to see Matthew Bourne’s Highland Fling.

To be honest, it was already on my radar simply because the name Matthew Bourne was attached to it.

As a long-time fan of his ‘dance theatre’, I suspected it wouldn’t be your run of the mill ballet; with good reason was he once known as the dance world’s ‘enfant terrible’ and Highland Fling as ‘La Sylphide for the Trainspotting generation’.

“This production has a strong narrative and I think you’ll really enjoy it,” wrote Nicola.

She was right. I did.

Bourne’s modern take on the romantic ballet La Sylphide is a tale of two halves; Act One is all muscle, Act Two a far more graceful affair.

Both are quite mesmerising and if Act One is laugh out loud funny, Act Two reveals the dark, bloody heart of the piece. Not that there’s a hint of this at the start.

The sound track that welcomes is straight out of Thingummyjig, A Wee Deoch an’ Doris, I Love A Lassie and The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen setting the action firmly in Scotland.

A blast of Donald Where’s Your Troosers at the start not only gets the audience clapping along but elicits the first laugh of the night.

There’s a joint stag and hen do at The Highland Fling Social Club, James and Effie are getting married.

These lads and lassies are in no way typical of the characters you might expect to meet in a ballet. As well as James and Effie, there’s Robbie, the Best Man, and Dorty, the Bridesmaid.

Then it gets complicated. There’s Gurn, who loves Effie, Madge, who loves James, Angus, who loves himself, and Ewan, who is confused.

Finally, there’s Jeannie, a fashion victim, Morag, a victim, and The Sylph and her army of elementals. Oh, and let’s not forget gran Gladys.

With Scene One finishing with The Sylph appearing to James as he slumps in a urinal in a chemically induced haze (This is no ‘Swan Lake’), Scene Two opens the morning after the night before, in a council flat, where preparations for the big day are underway.

It’s a hilarious, energetic and knowing pastiche boasting more tartan than a Bay City Rollers’ concert, Brigadoon on the telly, Celtic and Rangers scarves, and the odd Glesca kiss - just in case you’d forgotten where we are.

Indeed, when the Sylph reappears, visible only to James, she’s armed with a box Scott’s Porage Oats.

The magical urban wasteland of Act Two heralds more traditional moves as James, danced with great agility and warmth by Christopher Hampson, is led a merry dance by the Sylph. Sophie Martin is an impish delight in the role.

A tartan triumph, this Highland Fling thrills and enchants and is wonderfully accessible while giving those steeped in the traditional, an insight into more muscular storytelling.