Vintage Adventures: Highlands and Islands film

18 June 2020

Welcome to another Vintage Adventures film from the archive. This week we have been celebrating Highland Fling. Join us to take a look at the Highlands and Islands film produced by Scottish Ballet, showcasing their unique 2018 tour of Highland Fling to some of Scotland's most remote locations. 

"Highland Fling holds a very special place in our history as a company. It was premiered in 1994 between the creation of Nutcracker! in 1992 and Swan Lake in 1995. It bridges the gap between the old bijou company that toured the country in small and mid-scale venues and the large scale touring company that we know today! It is the 2nd of my adaptations of classic ballets ( based on La Sylphide of course) and the first time that I got to work with the man that became synonymous with the New Adventures style, Lez Brotherston. A further piece of “Adventures” history was made one night at the Lilian Baylis Theatre at Sadler’s Wells when the young Royal Ballet dancer, Adam Cooper, came to see Highland Fling with his now wife, Sarah Wildor. They loved the show so much that Adam made it known though our mutual friend, Iain Webb ( now Artistic Director of The Sarasota Ballet) that he would love to work with me.... and there in that moment the idea for asking Adam to play The Swan in my next piece was formed... the rest, as they say, is history! 

    In fact you can see the genesis of much of Swan Lake in Highland Fling? Not just Lez’s design but the idea of a quirky contemporary first act but also the idea of a fully danced through “white act” with Sylphs rather than swans. It also features a male leading man searching for an out of reach ideal.... a spiritual mate as it were? One other thing that was new in Highland Fling was it’s surprisingly moving, even shocking, ending. I remember loving the new feeling of making an audience cry as much as I did making them laugh.... and that has been the case ever since! Maybe the piece with the oddest history in our rep, it has played at The Place Theatre at a Gala attended by Prince Andrew, a Japanese tour starring Will Kemp and a West End run at the Donmar Warehouse where the audience were treated to a close up view of Scott Ambler’s kilt flying up with nothing but a tight flesh coloured jock-strap underneath!  

    It’s unusual history continued when it became the first of my pieces to be given to another company to perform for a period of time in their repertory. Christopher Hampson was already a good friend of New Adventures as a teacher when he applied to become Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet and asked me if he could bring Highland Fling into their rep if he got the job. It seemed like a no-brainer with the piece being set in Glasgow, home to Scottish Ballet, and I readily agreed! The fine dancers of Scottish Ballet have done the piece proud now over several seasons (including a date at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg!!) but it was this tour to the smaller, unreachable venues in the Scottish Highlands that brought the show back to its touring roots and gave so much pleasure to people who never get to see this kind of work locally. A wonderful initiative by Scottish Ballet that I was very happy to support...."

MB x


"When I first decided to apply for the directorship of Scottish Ballet, Matthew was the first person I called. I knew I wanted to present a distinctive repertoire and Highland Fling was the perfect fit for two reasons. Firstly, it’s a love letter to Scotland, but to a Scotland in which it can recognise itself, it’s relevant, biting satire mixed with the tragic love story makes for an amazing performance. The second reason was recognising Matthew’s pivotal input in changing the face of dance and by placing one of his works in the repertoire of a national company was something I believed was missing, so I was absolutely gob-smacked when he agreed I could include it in my plans – I think it got me the job!

Working with Matthew and his team to bring Highland Fling to Scottish Ballet was exhilarating. We committed ourselves to the same artistic process he would use for New Adventures, requiring the dancers to fully invest themselves into the characters they’d play. It helped to change the way we work on other productions too. 

When we toured Highland Fling to the ‘Highlands & Islands’ it was amazing to share a full-scale production with these welcoming communities. 

Years on from that first ‘ask’, Scottish Ballet remain the only ballet company in the world with permission to present a full-length work from Matthew Bourne! We’re so proud to have Highland Fling in our repertoire and of our relationship with Matthew and New Adventures."

Chris Hampson, Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet.

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