Matthew Bourne’s Highland Fling (Tour – Glasgow)

What ever happened to the mythical beasts of Scotland? They seem to have vanished beneath the surface of our imaginative cultural landscape like a Loch Ness Monster with agoraphobia. Did Kelpies ever run in the three pm at Hamilton Racecourse? Did Selkies decide to throw away the sex and death of their lives for a quiet tourist season as seals in Edinburgh Zoo? Well, the myths and legends of ancient Scottish folklore have found new life in the new context of the Matthew Bourne‘s Highland Fling, a deviation from the more traditional pieces produced by the Scottish Ballet.

What is inspiring about Bourne’s piece is his willingness to topple tradition in favour of creating something which is new and exciting. This is contemporary dance for a crowd who might prefer Rangers to rond de jambes and, whilst the company should be celebrated for making these cultural links, it may leave dance aficionados feeling that the piece lacks the artistry, grace and sophistication of Scottish Ballet’s recent productions.

The production opens with a fierce and funny nightclub sequence which plays with the styles of ballet and Highland dancing. The detail in the choreography, as one would expect from Bourne, is exquisite, moving the piece along at a steady pace and and finding a real sense of comic machismo. The exaggerated characters and movements of the cast make this production an enjoyable living cartoon, a silent film of national stereotypes.

It isn’t until the second act that the production is given a chance to truly explore the technical possibilities of the narrative and as such the piece feels at times artistically flat. Its choreography lacks the wit of Bourne’s Nutcracker! and the precision which is synonymous with Scottish Ballet. And that’s perhaps where this Fling earns its name – it’s fun for a time but ultimately leaves you wanting much more.

Highland Fling is at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, until 4 May.