5 Soldiers

Rigorous dance-theatre reconstruction of military experience in the field of war

★★★
dance review | Read in About 2 minutes
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5 Soldiers
Published 13 Aug 2017

The revival of Rosie Kay Dance Company's 5 Soldiers: The Body is the Frontline is as valuable now as it ever was. Various media regularly assume that the outlooks and ideologies of miltary personel and contemporary performance audiences are diametrically opposed, but here we are offered a meeting point to share the human experiences of different worlds. There are connections made between the rigours of rehearsal and drill training, with a clear understanding that the outcomes being prepared for carry vast differences in weight.

Director and choreographer Kay, and all the five uniform-clad dancers, have spent time training with the army, and the show is hosted during the festival in the Edinburgh Army Reserve Centre, ushered by serving members of the force. Recurring mini-conflicts across rank and friendship build through the four movements of the piece and, though it may seem there are only limited conclusions to the story, there is still some surprise and impact within the show's structure.

Waiting becomes basic training, becomes waiting, becomes wild partying. Preparation becomes bonds forming, becomes waiting in a chopper, becomes casualty, care, recuperation. Respectful attention is paid to the female experience in a male dominated environment, and the overt portrayal of power and precarity here informs our grasp of the entire frontline experience. Projections are used effectively, as is Annie Mahtani's understated soundscape that emphasises the tense monotony of the production. Strapping Duncan Anderson's legs to recreate an amputee's physical options is a brave choice and, though this is not a show to be enjoyed per se, it feels important to witness.