Seen at Tramway, Glasgow
Touring until May 28
Reviewed by Mark Brown
As anyone who has seen the National Theatre of Scotland’s show Black Watch will tell you, the drills, routines and battle action of soldiers contain an inherent choreography. One of the most noted elements of the production, which is based on the stories of former Scottish soldiers who served in Iraq, is the choreography of Steven Hoggett.
There are shades of Black Watch in 5 Soldiers, the latest piece by Rosie Kay Dance Company. As with Hoggett, there is in choreographer and director Kay’s piece, a heavy reliance upon the regimented movement and repetitiveness of army training.
That said, 5 Soldiers goes beyond the “dancing squaddies” stereotypes and overly literal representations that characterise many of Black Watch’s over-hyped movement sequences. Kay introduces choreographic innovations which have genuinely emotional and psychological, rather than merely physical, implications.
Recorded sound (such as BBC radio reports of battleground casualties in Afghanistan) and projected images (for example, footage of the passing landscape taken from inside an army helicopter) provide the piece with both context and atmosphere.
Fascinatingly, however, the dance is at its most effective when it strays furthest from military routine. The scene in which the four male soldiers interact with a young woman they encounter on a night out is a memorable and affecting reflection on distorted gender relations.
The sole female dancer, Shelley Eva Haden, offers excellent representations of both female soldiers and the civilian women who find themselves in the lives of army men; whether that be for just an evening or a significant part of their lives.
Making dance based on army life always carries the risk of predictability, and 5 Soldiers, like Black Watch before it, succumbs to that risk at times. However, when Kay digs beneath the surface, her piece has an undeniable impact.
For tour dates, visit: 5soldiers.co.uk
This review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on May 8, 2016
© Mark Brown