For some time, every prize and award in contemporary dance seemed to be earmarked for James Wilton, until he relocated to Austria to work with Oper Graz, and since then, he has been developing his practice with commissions and teaching and continuing to create work for his company of which Last Man Standing, commissioned by Dance City, is the most recent.
Having developed a name for himself by creating highly physical work which blends contemporary dance, martial arts, acrobatics and capoeira, accompanied by loud rock music, Last Man Standing sees James Wilton adapt his style to dance theatre, by exploring the story of Orpheus & Eurydice, and influenced by Terry Pratchett - not something you'll often see in a dance show's programme notes!
Last Man Standing is normally presented with an interval, which helps to segregate the piece's two halves more clearly, but as the Edinburgh Fringe doesn't do intervals, the first half quickly segues into the second, which is not as satisfying. The first half is vintage James Wilton; while the storyline is hinted at occasionally in the first half, gravity is a key feature of Wilton's choreography, with a mixture of lifts, jumps, leaps, falls and tumbling, seamlessly flowing between each. But the work is not always fast-paced: James Wilton knows when to reduce the pace, to let the tension and story unfold, and he handles these changes in dynamic skilfully, while the intensity of the (prog alt) rock music fuels the choreography with its energy, or emphasises the relative calmness of what's taking place on stage.
The second half of Last Man Standing focuses more on the narrative of Orpheus & Eurydice, with the movement now accompanied by a sense of story: for example, James Wilton's definition of purgatory is of dancers forever doomed to repeat the same movement.
While there are few of the choreographic pyrotechnics of the first half, it is interesting to see how Wilton adapts his style to narrative, which also proves that there's more to his work than the thrilling jumps, lifts and tumbling which he's known for.
In an Edinburgh Fringe which has largely shied away from dance-heavy shows, Last Man Standing has been so very rewarding to watch.