X Factor Dance Company
Freemason’s Hall, Edinburgh, Tue 19 Feb–Sat 1 Mar
Eighteen years after its first performance, X Factor Dance Company is coming of age. And, like most new recruits to adulthood, is striking out into uncharted territory.
For years, artistic director Alan Greig has favoured an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach, blending contemporary dance and innovative soundscapes to largely good effect. But in a radical new departure, Greig has bid farewell to the black box theatre in favour of a site-specific, promenade performance.
Inspired by the stunning surroundings, Other Voices, Other Rooms winds its way through the Freemason’s Hall on Edinburgh’s George Street. Utilising the numerous staircases, corridors, large and small rooms the building has to offer, Greig will take audiences on an atmospheric journey of discovery.
Or rather, Grant Smeaton will. The Scottish actor, best known for his time on BBC’s Only An Excuse, is taking on the role of guide, narrator and theatrical usher, leading audiences from room to room in the guise of several different characters. ‘It’s part of my job to establish the mood,’ says Smeaton. ‘Which is a really interesting role to have. And, as with all site-specific shows, the audience plays a really important part in it as well.’
As they walk through the space, audiences will encounter four dancers, a musician and Smeaton himself reciting passages drawn from Mike Leigh, Tennessee Williams and Alan Bennett among others. ‘We tried to find pieces that pertained to rooms or doors or going through places,’ explains Smeaton. ‘So we could somehow bring the building into what’s going on. The venue is very important, so we’ve used characters which suit each different space.’
Built almost a century ago, the Freemason’s Hall is the epitome of yesteryear opulence. Each room has a story to tell, and although Greig and Smeaton have chosen works with no direct relevance to the space, as the show’s title suggests, there is a ghostly quality to the piece.
‘You go into a certain room or hallway in the building and suddenly the ghost of that character fills the space,’ says Smeaton. ‘And then you open a door and it changes into something else – so you enter lots of different little worlds.’