Review :Velvet Petal-Scottish Dance Theatre

velvet petal

Photo: Brian Hartley

Scottish Dance Theatre emerge as kohl-eyed shadows, ciphers drawn to each other as mirrors, reflecting back their own youthful narcissism. Burning brightly as monarch butterflies, they die as quickly as they live. Pan-sexual imagery permeates the production, from Amy Hollinshead’s oversized blazer, a la David Byrne, to James Southward’s icy pout and undulations, to Jessie Roberts-Smith’s androgynous strip from a workaday suit-surely referencing Patti Smith’s iconic Horses album cover.

Taking her cue from the life of transgressive photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, choreographer Fleur Darkin’s homage straddles disco and rave, of the pursuit of hedonism for its own sake. Fusing BDSM references (beautiful men tug at a cat’s cradle of kink with a leather strap) with a New York trash aesthetic, this is possibly the closest thing to club culture ever created on stage.

v petal

Photo: Brian Hartley


There are flashes of humour, as with the coathanger scene, where hands pop out, creating a new ‘person’  from raw materials, but mostly, it’s sexually-charged. Groins thrust, hands flutter, and the ensemble stare back. They flex together, try on outfits like new personas, all unified by hands in the air euphoria, or a tangle on mattresses on the floor. Yet this is all undercut by the spectre of death (Mapplethorpe died of AIDS in the late eighties). Photographs and the printed word will endure; flesh will not. Francesco Ferrari, now exposed, turns away, yet still the voyeurs watch to the end. Ultimately, this is a real death disco: beautiful, melancholic, utterly ephemeral. ‘Life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last’, as the late Prince sang.

(Lorna Irvine)

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