If you had to record your life in 40 minutes, what would you say? That’s the question underlying Janet Smith’s Forty Minutes, her fifth work for Scottish Dance Theatre. Though it opens with a rapid-cut video sequence – life flashing before your eyes – the piece is not a race against time, but an unhurried stream of scenes and memories. Some are direct portrayals, like James MacGillivray and Gemma Nixon jostling on a couch in a skilful duet of casually mismatched moves; a cohabiting couple who are always slightly at odds. Others are less literal: Victoria Roberts teetering perilously in a strip of light, fearful of tipping over the edge. And most are more or less abstract: a group who surge and roll across the floor like pebbles in the tide, or a freewheeling trio of windmill turns and swooping dives.
The whole piece is suffused with implicit imagery – family bonds, children’s games, clouds, trains – and given a hypnotic undertow by Chris Benstead’s insistent electronic score. Smith’s elegant choreographic phrasing is sophisticated but unforced, and the dancers’ lithe, twisting ease of motion is a pleasure to watch. Just one quibble: these 40 minutes might work better as 30.
She slithers about like the spirit of café noir – dark, chic, a little bitter
Jan De Schynkel’s No Stronger Than a Flower is seriously weird, occasionally to the point of becoming wearying. As a coffee percolator bubbles, Roberts slithers about like the spirit of café noir – dark, chic, a little bitter. McGillivray and Anthony Missen, in misshapen woollen cardies with tiny chairs fixed to their behinds, blunder about like nestlings. Ruth Janssen and Toby Fitzgibbons sit against a flocked wall with antlers on their heads. Hunchback shufflings become goblin capers. Flowers are stuck to a window pane. Tom Waits alternates with free jazz, heavy guitar and high-pitched hallelujahs. Nothing makes any sense, but the surreal scenarios and abrupt musical lurches exert a grotesque fascination – and make you wonder what De Schynkel put in the coffee.