Coconspirator, Paul Benedict Henderson, takes a look back at the recent visit of Michael Clark and Scritti Politti to Glasgow’s Tramway.
Michael Clark shows at the Tramway are always exciting affairs and considering this was nothing less than the world premiere of New Work 2012 there was added anticipation for me. Glancing at the programme and then watching the dancers emerge I realised that it wasn’t quite as new as the title promised – indeed most of the show was a variation on the recent Barrowlands Project which was totally brilliant. The first half featured the music of Jarvis Cocker and his electro side-project Relaxed Muscle with Scritti Politti providing the soundtrack to the second half. The Tramway which usually looks epic with such performances felt uncharacteristically ‘titchy’ having already seen the same performance on the vast expanse of the dance floor of the Barrowland Ballroom.
The dancing was still great though – those cool classic skills enhanced, as ever, by that tongue in cheek delivery with Clark, once again, joining his eight dancers for a series of cameos. The section ended with dancers, dressed in zebra prints crawling and stretching across the ‘veldt’ of the Tramway floor to the howling beats of Beastmaster by Relaxed Muscle.
Following the interval the curtain swung open to the blank black floor, again, except for a tiny corner stage-right where snugly squeezed in were Rhodri, Nick and Green – Scritti Politti – who tonight would be playing six tracks live to accompany the dancing. This immediately presented me with a dilemma as much as I tried to focus fully on the dance I couldn’t stop my eyes from wandering across to watch the band and kind of wishing that I was watching them play a regular gig.
The section ended with dancers, dressed in zebra prints crawling and stretching across the ‘veldt’ of the Tramway floor to the howling beats of Beastmaster by Relaxed Muscle.
A slightly awkward respectfulness took hold for the next few songs as even though each dance piece had been choreographed to fit each of the six songs, people, including myself seemed a bit scared to clap at the end of each piece so neither band nor dancers got any applause. The reverential silence was finally broken by some brave souls at the end of After Six and folk (including the band) could finally relax a bit. The second programme featured more tender and intimate routines matched by the breathy tones of Green Gartside whose vocal performance was better than I might have expected in the circumstances. I had just about managed to focus on the dancers again by the end of the performance which is as it should have been; and a show which had the danger of being samey for me now felt totally different.
As the dancers took their applause at the curtain call, Michael Clark joined them, ushering the band to come join them centre stage. As the lights dimmed and then came back up there was the touching sight of Michael with both of his arms around the middle of the tall bearded figure of the Scritti singer giving him a big bear hug.
As we were leaving the theatre we bumped into a friend and her 15 year old niece, herself a talented dancer who was seeing the company for the first time. I asked her how she had enjoyed things and she said that the singer’s voice was really grating but that the dancing had been brilliant which made me laugh.
I left the show knowing that I’d been lucky to be there for one of the three shows and that it had been quite a special evening and was thankful for Clark’s long and fruitful relationship with Glasgow and the Tramway.
Scritti Politti are supporting St Etienne on their UK tour in December and have some headline dates in Europe this month too. Have a look at the Scritti Politti website for a full list of dates.