Dance review: Futuristic Folktales, Tramway, Glasgow

Charlotte Maclean offers another innovative blend of dance styles in Futuristic Folktales, but the themes hinted at in the programme notes are hard to grasp, writes Kelly Apter

Futuristic Folktales, Tramway, Glasgow ***

It took two years of development, a creative team of twelve and 22 project collaborators to bring Futuristic Folktales to the stage. Partly because the subject matter is so weighty (reproductive justice, birth, identity) but also because choreographer Charlotte Mclean is a cerebral, deep-thinking dancemaker.

Her superb 2022 solo show, And, showed us that, with Mclean blending contemporary dance with a passion and skill for Highland dancing.

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Futuristic Folktales PIC: Amy Sinead PhotographyFuturistic Folktales PIC: Amy Sinead Photography
Futuristic Folktales PIC: Amy Sinead Photography

Some of those threads can be seen here, but Futuristic Folktales appears to be a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. Stepping aside from performance to let Orrow Bell and Astro Scheidegger take the spotlight, Mclean (a compelling dancer) is missed, but not overly so. Both performers bring a huge amount to the table – Bell as a contemporary dancer, Scheidegger as an exponent of hip hop, both embracing Highland for the first time. Malin Lewis’ score blends traditional bagpipe with a plethora of unusual sounds that give the piece an otherworldly feel, aided by Emma Jones’ evocative lighting.

What the show struggles to do, however, is convey a discernible narrative. Dance doesn’t need to tell a story, of course, but we’re told up top that Futuristic Folktales is about the first womb. Other than seeing childbirth depicted on stage (in this instance by a man, no doubt watched gleefully by any woman who has been through it), the heavy themes hinted at in the programme are hard to grasp. Words are spoken but they feel drawn from a research session rather than polished and shaped into the finished article.

Mclean incorporates Highland dance moves into her choreography with wit and vision, and the moments of tension and tenderness between Bell and Scheidegger are both intriguing and comforting. Here’s hoping by the time this show hits the Edinburgh Fringe, it has found its true voice.



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