WITH the Edinburgh International Festival dance audience still in raptures following the extraordinary performance of Pina Bausch’s choreography for The Rite of Spring , the Festival welcomed the powerhouse of contemporary dance that is the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

As anyone who has seen Jamila Wignot’s excellent feature-length documentary, titled simply Ailey, will know, the late choreographer was one of the greatest Black dance pioneers in the history of the United States.

This fact was reflected abundantly on Thursday night, when the company performed the second of two substantial programmes of work from their repertoire. Dancing three works by Ailey (namely: Memoria, from 1979; The River, from 1970; and, arguably the choreographer’s magnum opus, Revelations, from 1960), the New York-based group gave brilliant expression to the freedom, humour, diversity and overflowing humanism of the man’s work.

Memoria, as one might expect, has, from the outset, a dreamlike quality. The dancers seem almost to float across the stage, carried by the elegiac music of the great jazz composer Keith Jarrett. There are, in both the choreography and the music, many shifts in tempo and atmosphere.

The National: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (Image: Andrew Perry)

Indeed, the entire programme has more changes in tone than a paint colour chart. The River, danced beautifully to music by the legendary Duke Ellington, seems, indeed, to flow like cascading water.

From a bluesy, back-and-forth to a dramatic explosion of red hot movement, the naked stage gives itself brilliantly to the company’s vision.

Revelations itself is a many-faceted, deeply moving series of dances to songs from the African-American gospel tradition. For example, there is a remarkable, angular, astonishingly affecting solo danced to the song I Wanna Be Ready. The dance to the famous high tempo number Sinnerman is gloriously urgent and dynamic.

When the company ended the show by swaying joyously to Rock My Soul, the Edinburgh audience was ready to give the American troupe a richly merited standing ovation.

Over on the Fringe, Irish work continues to illuminate the Traverse’s festivals programme. Lie Low (Traverse, ends today) by Ciara Elizabeth Smyth (produced by Prime Cut Productions) is a deeply disquieting, midnight-dark comedy for two actors, a box of Rice Krispies and a duck mask.

The National: Michael Patrick & Charlotte McCurry star in Lie LowMichael Patrick & Charlotte McCurry star in Lie Low (Image: Ciaran Bagnall)

Committed as I am to avoiding spoilers, suffice it to say that the drama welcomes us into the sparsely furnished flat of Faye Carver (Charlotte McCurry) as she and her university lecturer brother Naoise (Michael Patrick) attempt to come to terms with calamitously coinciding life crises.

Faye is suffering from trauma following a life-changing break-in at her home. When the less-than-attentive Naoise makes an unexpected visit, Faye’s hopes of sibling support turn out to be somewhat optimistic, not least because her brother faces serious difficulties of his own, both on campus and in his marriage.

In director Oisín Kearney’s tight production, the mental and emotional strains of Faye’s trauma have taken her down an unorthodox, and disconcertingly humorous, therapeutic route. The ensuing interactions between the siblings generate a tension of truly Pinteresque proportions, albeit it one framed by a surrealism worthy of the brush of René Magritte or Max Ernst (not to mention the action being supplemented by a very convincing prosthesis).

There is a David Mamet meets Enda Walsh sense about Smyth’s brave, clever writing. It has, in McCurry and Patrick, an equally daring and intelligent cast who are willing to go to some very dark places.

Such is the excellence of play and production that we, the audience, are led willingly into those places.

You don’t get a much darker play in world drama than Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, a work of the most hideously cruel and barbaric violence, especially against women. It’s a brave director who puts it on the stage in this (or, indeed, any) century.

Grzegorz Bral and the celebrated Polish theatre company Song of the Goat (which Bral established with his erstwhile collaborator Anna Zubrzycki) have long been attracted to human experience at its furthest reaches. Andronicus Synedoche (ZOO Southside, ends today) is a truncated telling of the Bard’s play of conquest, internecine rivalry and revenge. It is, unquestionably, a drama of extremes.

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Bral’s production is it at its strongest, and most emotive, when it is employing the Goats’ well-established talents in visually arresting, stylised movement, polyphonic song and live music. It is somewhat less effective, however, when the Polish cast is required to speak lines in English.

The representation of the unspeakable barbarism enacted against Titus’s daughter Lavinia (who is raped and horribly mutilated) is represented with the necessary power and pathos. Sympathetic, and never egregious, it stands as a memorably effective cry against crimes of violence, especially war crimes, against women.

This is not, in truth, as consistently impressive a production as early Goats’ works such as Chronicles – A Lamentation or Lacrimosa. However, that hardly registers as a criticism, given that those early works are among the greatest I have seen in more than 45 years of serious, international theatre-going.

On the evening I saw the piece, Bral, moved by some (in my view unfair) criticism of his production, took to the stage to justify it in advance. He would have done better, I think, to have let this very strong work speak for itself. He certainly shouldn’t have weakened its ultimate impact by proclaiming “that’s it!” at the play’s conclusion.

Finally, Jerry Sadowitz (below) proudly presents… Last Year’s Show! (Queen’s Hall, run ended) underlined both the Scottish comedian’s compelling brilliance and the stupidity of Pleasance cancelling his show at last year’s Fringe.

A regular comedian would take two-and-a-half hours to deliver the amount of material Sadowtiz gave us in a fast-talking 90 minutes of coruscating invective directed at… well, everyone, himself included.

The National:

The original title of the show (pre-cancellation) was “Not for Everyone”, but with the word “Everyone” scored out and replaced by a seemingly hastily scrawled “Anyone”. What last year’s (it’s now clear, very small number of) complainants and (more worryingly) Pleasance bosses failed to grasp was that Sadowitz’s entire shtick is about driving a coach and horses through everyone’s sensibilities… including mine and yours.

Stand-up comedy is, he insists, “the last bastion of free speech.” That includes the freedom to express his admiration for both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in terms so ironic that you’d have to be a hermetic Martian not to pick up on the sarcasm.

There are, as one would expect, darkly comic jokes about the Titanic submersible disaster, Phillip Schofield, Huw Edwards and Boris Johnson (who Sadowitz describes, hilariously, as “a female Ann Widdecombe”). There’s also, inevitably, a moment of exposure of Sadowitz’s (fake) penis.

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As he told his audience of grown-ups (none of whom appeared to feel that their “safe space” had been violated), he doesn’t like doing the knob exposure bit, but it’s a matter of public expectation, like The Rolling Stones playing Satisfaction.

The comedy, like Sadowitz’s line in typically excellent stage magic (including an unusual card trick demonstrating his “sleight of eyeball”), is delivered with the assuredness and confidence of a master craftsman.

And, of course, Sadowitz refers to the audience as “ladies and gentlemen” throughout. It’s important to maintain standards.