Edinburgh Fringe: About life, about being – Charlotte McLean in And

Dance Base, Edinburgh
August 23, 2022


It opens with a very traditional Scottish sword dance in traditional green kilt. “To break the ice,” Charlotte McLean tells us. A brief dip into her childhood follows. We hear how highland dancing saw her following in her mother and grandmother’s footsteps until, age 13 (pause for sharp intake of breath), “I rebelled. I began ballet.”

Those swords reappear later in a rather different context, but And is so much more than a dance show. Among a long list of things, McLean describes it as a “dance poem… a tribute to all that has graced this earth… a sacrifice to every emotion, even those we are yet to feel… an homage to; the cosmos, the minuscule, the magic and every meaningless moment.”

But more than anything, the autobiographical And is about life, about being. It’s gripping because it’s so very honest. It really is about who she is. McLean talks about her mother and grandmother (a phone call to whom is both unexpected and one of the show’s highlights), living in London and dancing. It’s about being a woman, a modern woman; and about belonging, being Scottish. Her love of her hometown Arbroath comes through strongly, as does her independence, spirit and determination.

The words often spew forth in a torrent, almost like she’s been building up to this far a long time and suddenly the dam has burst and she can let it all out. The delivery is superb. Distressing themes do put in appearances. References to miscarriage and abortion come as a jolt but, whether in the humorous or more poignant moments, McLean holds the audience throughout.

And is very much her story, told her way, and, despite the bleaker moments, the overall message is a positive one. It’s all incredibly impressive. A quite beautifully judged hour in the company of a very personable performer. And, by the way, the dancing is pretty good too!

And is at Dance Base to August 28, 2022. Click here for tickets.

Sung Im Her: Nutcrusher

Sung Im Her’s Nutcrusher
Photo Johan Pijpops

Following Charlotte McLean in Studio 3 at Dance Base is Sung Im Her’s Nutcrusher, which seeks to looks at sexual objectification and power by questioning how we gaze upon and relate to bodies, how they are presented, and how cultural context affects this.

Having started with them in back body suits, hiding everything including faces, Martha Pasakopoulou and Chihiro Kawasaki soon strip down to bright, shiny, lycra leggings. The dance that follows largely consists of repetitive jerky movement. A lot is in unison but with the occasional variation and development. The opening 20 minutes or so is given over to monotonous sequences of constant hip drops and weight shifts, with tilts of the head. It is impossible not to spot the similarities with the choreography of Sharon Eyal, especially as pretty much all of Nutcrusher is also to heavy house beats. It’s also about as interesting, although at least Eyal’s usually larger ensembles gives more scope for patterning.

The togetherness is impressive, although I found myself starting to look for differences in performance between the threesome. While subtle, they were not that hard to spot.

Danced largely with their backs to the audience, their hair often concealing their faces when they do turn for a second, I suspect the idea is to tease the audience. There’s also a section of headbanging that took me back to the 1970s. Teasing the viewer is taken a step further later then they strip off their tops and dance semi-naked under much dimmer lights, the choreography and staging again hiding more than it reveals. Eventually, they collapse on the floor, a sweaty, heavy breathing mass of bodies.

Whether Nutcrusher causes the audience to question sexual objectification in particular is highly debatable. Time and again, I found myself asking, Why?’ Why hide faces? Wouldn’t it me more powerful, more assertive if we saw them? Why strip off? It’s hardly unusual and adds nothing to the piece, a piece that, if anything, probably says more about Sung and her perceptions that it causes the audience to question theirs.

Nutcrusher is at Dance Base to August 28, 2022. Click here for tickets.