The bloody myth of Sawney Bean has chilled the hearts of the people of Scotland for hundreds of years, writes Corin Anderson.
Now the gory story is brought to life in the form of a dance show, Last Orders, which is to be performed by the David Hughes Dance Company at Peebles’ Eastgate Theatre tomorrow.
The dance explores the metaphor of cannibalism through a number of events including a birth, a death and the modern gameshow.
Associate director and breakdancer Matt Foster said that even though Sawney Bean’s legendary story – he was alleged to have murdered and eaten over 1,000 people in Galloway – was used as a starting-point in the making of the production, it is not the main focus.
“The way we tell a story is through movement with only a small amount of acting. The show is all about exploring dark themes – like human consumption – in a modern piece of physical theatre,” he said.
David Hughes produced another critically acclaimed dark and horrific show, The Red Room, in 2009. The company’s version of Edgar Allan Poe’s Masque of the Red Death successfully recreated the mad, diseased world of Poe’s apocalyptic classic.
When asked if he would consider Last Orders to be gruesome and not for the faint hearted, Matt said: “We’re not interested in literal representation. We don’t go about biting each other’s arms off! Last Orders is all about ideas and symbology, so we’re not exactly spoon-feeding people horror.”
The dance company is collaborating with Conflux, a project created to support Scottish artists working in many creative fields, in opening an apprenticeship process to support the production of Last Orders.
From this collaboration, artists have improved their skills in directing, lighting, sound, sets, and costume and in stage and production management.
David Hughes Dance also has the distinction of being the first dance company to be offered a permanent residency at The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.
Guy Veale and Alberto Santos Bellido return to take on the dark new challenge of Last Orders, armed with strobe lighting and an original soundscape made up of music and sound effects.
The company say an atmospheric set of steel mirrors is used to enhance the performance and a vast array of costumes allow the dancers to glide across the stage, casting darkness into the souls of the audience.
Director and choreographer of Last Orders, Al Seed, added: “This is a show about the body and how its needs, sometimes terrible, can overshadow logic and conscience.”
The show has received positive reviews. It has been described as “a hedonistic nightmare where nothing is certain, apart from Hughes’ genius”. Another reviewer said: “The skill and inventiveness of these dancers and the choreography that goes behind it are nothing short of stunning – gripping and gloriously dark theatre.”
The Telegraph described the images as “frightening”, the sound “compelling” and the dancers “superb”.
Last Orders is being shown at 7.30pm tomorrow. The show is suitable for ages 14 and over and tickets can be bought for £13 by phoning 01721 725777.