RashDash’s latest piece – an eighty-minute physical theatre and sketch exploration of the male and female experiences – won massive accolades at Edinburgh before its run at the Soho Theatre. Performing to a sold-out audience on press night, Two Man Show plays on three tracks at once: a quasi-ceremonial introduction to the historical subjugation of women, scenes from the lives of two estranged brothers, and wordless dance theatre in various stages of undress. While lacking in some desired cohesion, it was nonetheless a memorable, exciting, delightful one-act piece that analyses language and the innate, ingrained relationships between the sexes. Additionally, Helen Goalen and Abbi Greenland’s masterful stage presences and uses of their bodies – whether playing men or women, clothed or unclothed – kept all attention firmly focused on the stag even when themes wandered.
The show’s opening immediately grabbed all attention in the Soho Theatre Upstair’s black box, here set up in traverse. A combination of live and pre-recorded music and vocals retold the story of humanity’s emergence into civilisation, equating the dominance of men with their newfound knowledge of taming animals and reproductive acts. This loud, ritualistic opening set a declamatory tone, which was quickly dismantled (only brought back briefly, in a more personal frame, at the piece’s end) by the following sections.
The remainder of the piece alternated between narrative scenes showing interactions between John and Dan – two brothers who have grown apart, but who are brought together by their father’s ailing health. Their emotionally stunted relationship was excellently conveyed by Abbi and Helen’s physical performances, and their conversations covered everything from workout regimes to girlfriends’ choices. The other half of the piece’s bulk was filled by wordless dance performance – some clothes, some joyfully nude. While beautiful and playful, it lacked the struggle of the rest of the piece – perhaps these sections provided the moments of relief.
While the piece never failed to be engaging and entertaining, it lacked a theme or common threat throughout the disparate sections. Aside from the saga of John and Dan (and the brief appearance of John bursting in to another ending scene), it seemed that nothing connected the feminist ceremony at the piece’s beginning, the brothers’ struggles, and the nude dancing. While the stunted communication (or complete lack thereof) in each of the middle sections conveyed the implication of a patriarchal language – inadequate and smothering to women and men alike – there was still too much uncertainty and lack of commitment to this theme to take the audience on the performance’s journey.
RashDash seemed to be aware of this problem with their piece, pointing out at the start of the final scene that there was no point and no meaning to the dances. While, as mentioned, this was explained away as the result of a patriarchal language there was no further attempt to illustrate meaning or connection. The excuse felt unfinished and unexplained.
Despite this lack of a satisfying conclusion, RashDash’s energetic, exciting piece is an excellent, thought-provoking night at the theatre.
Two Man Show is playing at the Soho Theatre until Saturday 1st October. Performances are Tuesday-Saturday at 7pm, and tickets cost £15-17.50 (£12.50-£15 concessions) depending on the date. More information and bookings can be found at http://www.sohotheatre.com/whats-on/two-man-show/.