1O Soldiers – Festival Theatre

A collaboration between noted choreographer Rosie Kay and The British Army, 10 Soldiers at the Festival Theatre is emotional, entertaining, and accessible.

Rosie Kay has succeeded in creating a dance show that is as moving as it is entertaining. Tackling the potentially heavy topic of life as a soldier in collaboration with The British Army and Birmingham Hippodrome and after extensive research, the Sunshine on Leith choreographer paints a three-dimensional image of the military experience, in its difficult, mundane, and even funny moments. It feels neither like propaganda nor protest-art and provides a truly unique perspective on day-to-day military life.

The content of the performance feels more literal than abstract, part of why it is so universally accessible. It takes the audience through the slog of training, the tension of interpersonal conflict, the fear of battle, and even moments of romance and camaraderie. The second act feels more personal than the first, featuring an outstanding performance from Harriet Ellis as one of the troop’s few outnumbered female members as a target of fascination from both sexes. A personal favourite scene depicts a hilarious dance battle to Katy Perry’s ‘Firework,’ a reprieve from the intense difficulty that the soldiers face and a feature of each dancer’s unique personality and talent.

One element of the performance that is interesting to note is the unity with which the soldiers begin to move as the piece continues. At first, during warm-ups, they travel at different paces, and even while walking in formation tend to fall in and out of place. Alongside the more personal experiences highlighted in the second act, the soldiers are pictured walking with more perfect unity that has developed alongside their relationships throughout the performance.

Its heavier moments, too, achieve a sense of the personal experience and trauma of the military experience. The production opens with an explosion, eliciting verbal reactions of shock from the audience, and establishing a solemn mood. It ends, too, with a tragic moment, as Alan Hunte performs as a wounded soldier dancing on his knees with his legs bound in a heart wrenching representation of both physical injury and mental trauma.

The performance’s light, sound, and projection design are perfect accents to the performance. There is a variety of sound and song, sometimes augmented by verbal declarations and outbursts from the cast members themselves. The projected backdrops range from literal (barbed wire fence) to abstract (something that seems to be computer code) while maintaining thematic relevance throughout.

This performance is accessible even for audiences unfamiliar with contemporary dance, and I would argue would even be accessible to youth audiences as an educational tool. It is never boring, never one-sided, and both entertaining and deeply thought-provoking.

 

PHOTOS: Capital Theatres

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Julia Weingaertner

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