By Rachel Elderkin
From the moment Last Man Standing bursts onto the stage with its physically powerful, fast-paced choreography, it barely pauses for breath. The dancers dive and fly around the space, leaping across each other’s bodies with moves that test their trust and timing. James Wilton has been touring this work since 2014 and this experience shows in the assurance of the dancers as they run headlong through his challenging choreography.
Based on Terry Pratchett’s novel The Last Hero and the Greek myth ofOrpheus and Eurydice, Last Man Standing explores the will to survive and it is this theme which leaves the strongest impression in what is otherwise an abstract work. Driven by a heavy guitar soundtrack Wilton’s movement tests its dancers’ stamina, pushing them to exhaustion until just one is left standing. It’s a pattern that repeats as the piece moves between scenes, interspersed with the occasional duet. These duets allow for a break in the onslaught of movement but among their close contact work there remains a vying for control, the same individualistic sense of survival.
There is no doubting the strength of the dancers or choreography, but as Last Man Standing ploughs steadfastly along it begins to feel somewhat self-indulgent; impressive movement danced for the sake of making an impact. It redeems itself in its rather beautiful closing solo, danced by Sarah Jane Taylor. Slowly she peels herself off the floor, like a broken creature regaining its body. Granted, the movement builds again, returning to Wilton’s highly physical style, but it’s a moment that adds meaning to the surrounding choreography. It leaves a lasting image that resounds throughout the piece; an image of our instinctive will to survive.