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5 SOLDIERS The Body is the Frontline review at Patrick Centre Hippodrome Birmingham

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Appearing as part of the International Dance Festival Birmingham, this is an astonishing work that takes no stand on war except to present it as it is now for the soldier. Rosie Kay’s dancers get right inside the skins, the minds, the very souls of the five as they progress from the rigours of training to the breath-holding intensity of the frontline.

It’s highly charged and it screams authenticity, something assured by Kay’s battle training with the 4th Battalion of the Rifles and time spent by art director, David Cotterell, with the Joint Forces Medical Group in Helmand. Warfare here isn’t about weapons and armour, but about the physicality and dexterity of the human body, the punishment it can give and the abuse it can take.

The boot-stamping, accelerating drill movements are so instilled and so robotic that they’re reflected in the synchronised washing of heads or picking of noses. It’s almost documentary as they itch and scratch, jolt inside a helicopter, freefall against a jarring landscape or slither on their bellies in a combat zone.

In one searing and sensuous scene, the men find pre-combat release in heavy rock while the off-limits female soldier sits apart in a pool of light, hair loosened, wholly absorbed in powdering her legs. There’s naked desire and sexual frustration. Sacred music bursts into Annie Mahtani’s sound score of radio babble, barked commands, insect drone and cacophony of helicopter blades.

The final scene leaves you shocked and sobered, with a new humility and a fresh understanding of what gallantry really means. Awesome.

Production Information

Patrick Centre, Hippodrome, Birmingham, April 23-24, then touring until June 10

Rosie Kay
Rosie Kay Dance Company
Cast includes
Tilly Webber, Tomasz Moskal, Chris Vann, Chris Linda, Michael Spenceley
Running time
1hr 20mins
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