Highland Fling Festival Theatre

Matthew Bourne’s reworking of La Sylphide is now 20 years old but still feels fresh and exciting, and will appeal to a younger audience new to ballet as well as confirmed dance fans. This is the first time that Bourne has allowed another company to perform one of his works and he has worked closely with Scottish Ballet to ensure they met the high standards he expects. Work that has paid off, as they fully live up to these expectations.

Our attention is grabbed from the start with an introduction of couthy Scottish songs such as “Donald, Where’s Your Troosers” and “I Love a Lassie” then we are straight into Act One, a scene of drunkenness and drug taking in the toilets of the Highland Fling Social Club where a group of young stags and hens are celebrating the upcoming wedding of James and Effie. James has already been flirting with Madge on the eve of his wedding which more than hints that he is a reluctant groom. He is mesmerised by the appearance of the sylph, and attracted to her other-worldliness which offers him a way out of the ennui of his real world.

The set and costume design are superb – lots of kitsch and tartan and so much detail it is easy to miss another gem. The original score is played perfectly by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra and the principal dancers are excellent and well supported by the corps de ballet.

There are lots of lovely comical touches – the film of Brigadoon on the tv in the flat, the cuddly toys in the woodland scene, the white suitcase the sylph brings out of the abandoned car to run away with James to the world of men. There is also pathos as, like all classic ballets, the story ultimately ends in tragedy. Literally and metaphorically, James clips her wings and in his attempt to control the free spirit which first attracted him to her, he loses her as well as himself.

The ballet closes with James’ erstwhile fiancée Effie and new love Gurn cosily drinking cocoa by the fireside. James appears outside the closed window, he has become a sylph. In the end he has lost everything – his old and new loves and his old life, and must face a future as an outcast.

A ballet by Matthew Bourne has to be on everyone’s must see list and this is no exception.

Run ends Saturday 25 May.

Irene Brownlee