Edinburgh Festival Fringe dance review: Beauty of the Beast, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Kelly Apter
First comes the beauty: three men, dressed in Lycra, executing graceful, balletic moves, fuelled by a very male bodily power.
We see the muscles flex, the technique displayed, and it is indeed beautiful.
Then the beast arrives: three other men, dressed for the street, here purely to ridicule anybody who doesn’t conform to their version of masculinity.
At this point, for me, Company Chameleon’s show runs into temporary difficulties. One man toys with another, egging him on to carry out increasingly humiliating tasks, as a form of initiation to the gang. But the words and dramaturgy fall short of what’s needed to fully convey pack mentality, and our very human desire to fit in. It’s also not terribly funny, which I suspect it needs to be.
But all of that gets firmly pushed aside by the sheer brilliance of the movement that follows. Not just how it has been crafted, but the execution and the entire atmosphere in the theatre, which shifts between adrenalin-pumped menace and subtle and tender human frailty.
Choreographer, and company co-founder, Anthony Missen (a much-missed former member of Scottish Dance Theatre) has a gift for harnessing the strength, but also often the overlooked vulnerability, of male dancers.
The group moves across the stage like a swarm, low and earthy, beasts in search of something – even they don’t know what. Then there are more delicate moments; solos which capture the inner life of a man, so often hidden behind the everyday pressures to be what society expects.
The hugely touching closing moment says it all. After an angst-ridden solo alone in a spotlight, dressed only in pants, Lee Clayden stands up and puts on his suit. It’s time to step back behind the façade and carry on.
Dance Base (venue 22), run ended
Published in The Scotsman on 29 August 2015
Edinburgh Festivals 2015: complete coverage
• Get everything on our Festivals homepage – on desktop, mobile or tablet
• Looking for reviews? Check out the latest Scotsman reviews – or browse all the reviews ranked by star rating
• Watch all the latest videos from the #WOWwagon
• Get distracted by our Festival Blog
• Check out today’s half-price ticket deals
• Follow our social accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – and join the conversation with #WOWfest