By Rosie Kay
Rosie Kay Dance Company on line, part of Army at the Virtual Fringe 2020
12th August to 19th August 2020
Viewing platform here
Running time 1hour 22 minutes including one very short interval. Review Mark Courtice 15th August 2020
What has dance got to do with the Army? Here Rosie Kay comes up with answers as she creates dance moments from training and drilling, as well as fighting and its consequences. But this only begs the question of what the Army does for dance and that’s much less satisfactory. It’s hard to discern character in all that formation moving and the world of soldiers remains pretty impenetrable.
This extension of Kay’s very successful 2007 show now has an extra first act concentrating on training. As she has explained, it’s about people turning into soldiers, but despite a lot of laddish messing about, this chance to develop character is missed. Five extra bodies on stage fill a greater physical space but not a psychological one.
It’s played on a bare stage in front of a huge screen that flickers with black and white scratchy pictures, computer code images, or flickering night vision goggle landscapes. The spare soundscape by Annie Mahtani is similarly harsh, broken up by occasional punk music or driven classical anthems.
Alongside the long sequences of marching and weapons drill a series of solos and duets interpolate some urgent emotion, lessened by the fact we don’t know who these people are who are feeling so strongly. There is skill here aplenty, but it’s unsatisfying stuff. The second act is more compelling as the soldiers eventually go to war. Kay also makes the important point that all these tough young need to fight more than the enemy – they have their own demons. She knows the world of which she treats and she understands their motives and fears.
The world of soldiers is a legitimate concern of art but it in this case it feels that Kay has been seduced into viewing the Army too much through military eyes.
Choreographer & Director Rosie Kay
Producer James Preston
Rehearsal Director Shanelle Clemenson
Composer Annie Mahtani
Designer Louis Price
Lighting Designer Mike Gunning
Production Manager Karl Westlake
Dancers Olly Bell, Luke Bradshaw, Harriet Ellis, Emma Houston, Alan Hunte, Josh Hutchby, Kevin Memeti, Jonathan Mewett, Gareth Mole, Akshay Sharma
Filmed at Edinburgh Festival Theatre, June 2019