GOD (Grumpy Old Dancers) / A Beautiful Hell @ Dance Base
''Oh, hello, boys and girls... would you like to hear a story?'' Thus begins the loveably eccentric pairing that is Alan Greig and Andy Howitt, but there ain't nothing fairytale like about GOD - indeed, it is steeped in the everyday... a litany of moans, whinges and greetin's about the modern malaise that is the ageing process. It is, in fact, a celebration of the noble art of being a curmudgeon.
They make an odd couple, Greig and Howitt - the former sleek and catlike, stretching out then curling back into himself; the latter, a more aggressive dancer, punching the air and doing those trademark high kicks. Occasionally, they scrap like brothers or embrace like lovers. Every so often, the show is stopped for a small aside on politics, crap Scottish weather,or queueing and this may sound prosaic, but it becomes an unexpectedly joyful if caustic little treat - especially when the two finally mirror their movements.It's fun being grumpy, they insist. Healthy, even. After all, grumpiness, as with so many things, is better out than in.
Things get considerably darker with A Beautiful Hell, Gary Clarke's follow-up to the magnificent Francis Bacon-inspired Bagofti from last year. Nine young men from Edge Hill University (Edge Fwd) tackle a story of alienation with great sensitivity. Outsider Joe (beautifully performed by Joseph Reay-Reid) is attacked by a group of boys. Warning bells thunder in my ear when he wears a sign reading 'ALONE', but the seamless merging of styles, from contemporary to ballet, weave a powerful narrative of finding a way out of ostracism, exploring Joe's sexuality and inner strength and finding the ultimate redemption through love.
There are some truly jarring scenes - Joe's treatment at the hands of the bullies being a genuinely shocking example - but the humour balances any bad feeling. The scene where the troupe mimic girl groups to Roy Orbison's Only The Lonely is witty and cute. Clarke's choreography always defies easy categorization and we should treasure him.