For those who like their dance without frills, Last Man Standing provides an hour of unrelenting raw movement. This work is another gem from James Wilton’s increasingly impressive repertoire of exhilarating dances. Influenced by his enthusiasm for the writings of Terry Pratchett, the piece is related to The Last Hero and the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, but this is not strict narrative dance: the framework allows for interpretation and the focus is clearly on movement, as it explores ‘the fragility of human existence, and the desire to survive’. Last Man Standing was originally performed in two acts: the first, ‘Life” with three scenes entitled Decay, The Finite Nature Of Time andMortal Coil followed by a five scene second act “Death” consisting ofThe River Styx, Sands Of Time, Hell, Kairos and Return. For the Festival Fringe the two run without interruption. This perpetuum mobile adds to the intensity of the piece and flow of seemingly endless energy. Music from American progressive metal band Tool provides another driving force in this work. Patrick Donovan refers to the group as "the thinking person's metal band... and a tangle of contradictions”, describing the style as “cerebral and visceral, soft and heavy, melodic and abrasive, tender and brutal, familiar and strange, western and eastern, beautiful and ugly, taut yet sprawling and epic." The same could be said for the dance.
As the smoke wafts across the stage and the complex action commences, the feel of an underworld is enhanced by Mario Ilsanker’s brooding lighting with interruptions from banks of startling white. James Wilton’s style draws on many sources, some of them he admits to being “quite un-dance like”. They are all recognisable but sometimes only in flashes, as he has them tightly interwoven. Hence we see a trio engaged in grovelling acrobatic rotations, strokes of martial arts, throws, lifts, rolls, slides, break-dancing and the influential capoeira. There are also softer moments, particularly centred around the Eurydice figure, but even she becomes embroiled in frantic arm twistings with the man marking time in a recurring pendulum motif. There is also excellent use of the stage area, particularly in a pursuit sequence of diagonals that reaches into its extremities.James Wilton Dance presents a well-structured production that is both earthy and other-worldly, in a harmonious blend of sound, light, music and movement. Like Orpheus, you will find looking back on its beauty irresistible.