Dance, Physical Theatre & Circus review: Rite of Spring, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Spectacular with all the rite moves

Rite of Spring, Festival Theatre. Picture: EIF
Rite of Spring, Festival Theatre. Picture: EIF

Rite of Spring, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh * * * *

Choreographers usually only take part in a curtain call at world premieres, but Yang Liping clearly wants a slice of the action – and why not? Her re-imagining of the Rite of Spring dazzled a sold-out Festival Theatre with its visual brilliance, so even after the dancers had left the stage, Liping was still there soaking up the glory.

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If we’re offering gratitude for an evening well spent, then it’s a shame Tim Yip wasn’t there, too. The Oscar-winning designer played a large part in our enjoyment, filling the stage with a set and costumes that kept our eyes busy – even if our hearts weren’t engaged.

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All of The Scotsman's 5-star reviews from the 2019 festivals

The superb performers of Peacock Contemporary Dance Company give their all, in many different ways. As we enter, they’re already sitting cross-legged on stage wearing different-coloured ceremonial dresses and head gear. When they eventually move (pity those poor cold leg muscles) it’s with quick-fire movements, their bodies taking on new forms – an insect one moment, a bird the next.

Surrounding them are hundreds of Chinese characters, placed delicately by a hard-working Buddhist monk, who never stops toiling (not even to take a bow at the end). These are employed variously, as face masks, to throw in the air during a frenzy, or to stick on the body of ‘the chosen one’, ready for sacrifice.

The sole male dancer is an imposing presence, whether it’s during a sexual fertility duet or condemning the above sacrificial offering. But it’s the under-the sea style wafting of long fluorescent fingernails and bendy bodies in leg frames that most of us will remember. When Liping’s movement and the high drama of Stravinsky’s music are perfect partners.

Until 24 August