Family Portrait

A charming, funny and touching interactive video installation, Family Portrait by Natasha Gilmore’s Barrowland Ballet features Natasha herself as mother and single parent and her three kids: Otis, Iggy and Frieda. This will delight anyone who has or has had small children, whether their own, grand-children or nieces and nephews. Four screens surround swivelling stools so only 6 people can watch at a time, so there’s safe distancing plus everyone is masked and no need to worry about going inside the venue, Dance Base.

A heart-warming family portrait which will bring tears to your eyes.

One presumes this was filmed during covid lockdown. What a way to cope with it. Frolicking about in the woods, by a lochside overlooked by the changing colours of the mountains, or ochre moorland, we see various Scottish landscapes through the changing seasons. Memorable images such as angel shapes in the snow appear independently on a screen, or occasionally continue from screen to screen as the children rush through the trees.

We are treated to family hilarity, peekaboo between the trees, burying mum in bark, or dressing her up with lichen, a stick in her mouth, bilberries smeared on her cheeks and then being allowed to eat one; or mum and the two boys carrying a long branch on their shoulders from which wee (Scots: little) Frieda hangs. She also has a very grown-up ‘theatrical’ vocabulary for one so young! Iggy is a keen observer of spiders or birds who he decides may be singing to their babies, or he ponders, maybe their mate when they will ‘get busy’: Otis is weighed down by the responsibilities of being the oldest who must not show his fear to the other children: a long list including darkness, being alone and Pingu (!) but he conquers this with a brave, heroic deed (no spoilers).

Natasha herself is a very hands-on mum, leading or encouraging their imaginative play, obviously the inspiration for her children. Lots of rough play but many hugs. In a moving vignette in which she curls up in an abandoned enamel bath in a field at a slight distance from the kids, every parent will recognize that need for some ‘me time’ however much you love your kids.

Natasha Gilmore’s Barrowland Ballet always produces a wonderful range of shows, but it’s particularly inspiring to see how she has maintained her career as a dancer and choreographer throughout her children’s childhood, even involving them from when Otis, at 18 months, was passed from hand to hand by the dancers in A Conversation with Carmel back in 2013 and now joined by brother and sister. It’s a delight to see them over the years appearing in shows. A heart-warming family portrait which will bring tears to your eyes.

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Reviews by Stephanie Green

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The Blurb

An interactive video installation, projected across four screens. With accompanying soundscape, striking imagery and choreography, Family Portrait captures Artistic Director, Natasha Gilmore, and her children in an intimate portrayal of family life. Taking you on a geographical and emotional journey through Scottish landscapes, it celebrates getting out into nature. With space to roam, the children encounter rabbit skulls, converse with spiders and make war paint with berries. With humour and candour, the work shares an honest depiction of what family really is with its relentless, glorious chaos, responsibility, joy, intimacy and love. Each screening for one extended household.

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