City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Martin Creed Ballet Work No. 1020 Review

By Vivien Devlin - Posted on 11 August 2010

Show details
Traverse Theatre
Sadler's Wells and the Fruitmarket Gallery
Running time: 
Martin Creed (choreographer music, visuals), Rob Eagle (Video operator)
Dancers - Kerry Biggin, Delphine Gaborit, Eleanor Forest, Nadia Sadiq, Mikah Smillie; Musicians - Martin Creed (guitar, voice), Keiko Owada (bass), Ben Kane (drums), Genevieve Murphy (pianist

Martin Creed won the prestigious Turner Prize in 2001 for “The Lights Going On and Off (work 227).”  As well as being a visual artist, Creed is a musician, writer and film-maker, inspired by all aspects of the arts, performance and popular culture.

Sadler’s Wells commissioned him to choreograph his first dance piece, Ballet Work No. 1020, as a collaboration between dance and other art forms. For those who are expecting a ballet performance, you are in for an exciting, improvised music, movement, dance, comedy, video experience.

Martin Creed wanders casually on stage and addresses the audience like a stand up comic, checking to see if the mike is working. He seems surprised to see a packed theatre waiting for a performance of some sort and appears uncertain as to what should happen next. “What do you want me to give you?” he asks tentatively. He's keen that we like him and his show.

Members of his band arrive one by one, keyboards, drummer, guitarist, synthesiser. A metronome is set ticking, we hear the lowest and highest notes of the piano, as lights flash on and off. With deadpan wit, Creed explains that we have to start at the beginning. It’s a kind of Do, Ray, Me in The Sound of Music moment.

Five dancers, dressed in rehearsal leggings and loose tops, gracefully enter the stage, point, toe, heel, arabesque, representing classic ballet positions, accompanied by single musical notes. Meanwhile, occasional videos are shown on screen – a man kicking a plant pot, scampering dogs, film footage of an adult sexual nature - each flashed for a minute or so, similar to the Monty Python ad hoc images such as "This is a Larch".

Between several ballet sequences, with dancers skipping, walking and hopping symmetrically across the stage in lines and diagonals, the band bash out a few punk rock songs, volume and tempo rising accordingly. With a mish mash of humour, ad libbing and rhetorical questions, it’s eccentric, imaginative, self-indulgent, artistic. Drawn into the whole repetitive, rhythmic music and movement, beat by beat, step by step, this is an utterly hypnotic multi-media performance.

Show times
Till 15 August (different times daily, check Fringe programme)

Ticket prices
£19 (£13) and £17 (£12)

I thought I was going to see a ballet, but I got more than I bargained for, or at least my mum did! I had never heard of Martin Creed. I knew he was an artist therefore I was very sceptical as to what I was going to be seeing. Marin Creed described the show as ‘real life’. He displayed, through his own songs and dances, all the simplistic aspects of ‘life’ such as the alphabet, positions in dance, numbers, feelings etc. In doing this he was witty and comedic though I wouldn’t necessarily say entertaining.

            Throughout the performance he displayed 5 unexpected videos. He introduced them as ‘things that happen in life’. To be honest, I’ve never seen these things in my fourteen years of living and certainly would not have hoped to in the presence of a hundred other people and my mother. The videos were deeply uncomfortable and evoked different emotions from the audience. Some laughed, most winced and a few simply stood up and left.

            Would I consider this a Ballet? No, definitely not. Would I consider this a music gig? No, probably not. But would I consider this art? Yes, I would. It certainly made you feel something, whether it be good or bad. In conclusion, if you want to see five positions in ballet, a man singing the alphabet and a woman shitting on a screen then this is the show for you.


Sophie Aged 14