Highland Fling is Matthew Bourne’s take on the classic ballet La Sylphide.
La Sylphide debuted in 1832 and shocked the ballet world by introducing it to The Romantics; a generation of young artists that revolutionised ballet with their distaste for reality and love of illusion.
La Sylphide was the first ballet to successfully express the Romantic philosophy: a hero on the brink of complacency, who suddenly throws it all away in a search for true happiness - a search that in the end proves fruitless.
James, a Scottish peasant, is about to marry a peasant girl named Effie. A Sylphide (a mythical winged sprite as difficult to hold as a dream) falls in love with James on his wedding day. She makes herself visible to him, and he falls in love with her and leaves his bride-to-be, relatives and wedding guests to escape with the Sylphide. James, a simple mortal, realizes that it is impossible to keep her at his side. Madge, the witch, sees James' conundrum and offers him a magic scarf which he must tie around the Sylphide's waist. This however will make her wings drop off leaving her unable to fly. James' hope of the Sylphide being his forever is shattered as she falls to the ground dead.
The Sylphide's friends, the Sylphs, appear and gather round her and as she dies in their arms the sorrowful James watches. The Sylphs lift her into the air and carry her away. In the distance James sees Effie, now married to another. Madge enters and confronts the angry James. He attempts to kill her but Madge strikes him down with a cursed blow and kills him. Madge rejoices in her victory and the ballet comes to an end.
Not your regular happy ending, La Sylphide is the calling card of The Romantics, a bold and influential generation that forever changed the face of dance, with the creation of bold and beautiful illusions.
La Sylphide shocked the dance world in the same way that Matthew Bourne mixes up the order of his works. Some purists find his ‘gender bending’ swans and punk like sylphs hard to swallow. Most delight in his modern and slightly cheeky takes on classics.
Highland Fling retains the Scottish theme from La Sylphide but James is now an unemployed welder in the toughest back streets of Glasgow. This is La Sylphide for the Trainspotting generation
The Sylph first appears to James when he is slumped in the toilets of a nightclub, and then again visits him on the eve of his marriage to Effie. James falls for the Slyph, leaving his fiancée on their wedding day tries to convince his love to return to the mortal world with him. James brutally cuts off her wings in an effort to make her human and keep her with him, but the Slyph slowly dies despite many attempts from James to drag her into the real world.
Lez Brotherston complimented the performance with equally contemporary design. His tartan theme is picked out in costumes and set enhancing the Scottish theme. Other scenes include a rough urban wasteground, littered with the ugly hulks of concrete tower blocks and decay.