MK Ultra review at Laban Theatre, London – ‘slick and striking’
Rosie Kay is known for the extensive research she conducts for her projects. Previous piece 5 Soldiers saw her dancers undertake training with the army. For her latest work, MK Ultra, she delves into the mysterious world of conspiracy theories and the cult of the Illuminati.
A triangle, a symbol associated with the Illuminati, looms over the stage. Upon it flash images from popular culture and documentary footage, a quick-fire run through of conspiracies surrounding brainwashing and CIA experiments. While collaborator Adam Curtis’ footage provides the ‘facts’, Kay’s choreography visualises the gaudy, pop culture that the Illuminati supposedly manipulate in an attempt to infiltrate society with their ideology.
Her sleekly and colourfully cat-suited dancers burst onto the stage to a high-energy soundtrack of mixed samples and electronic sounds. Their movement is overtly sexualised, taking its lead from the commercial dance music videos – a strikingly technical combination of urban styles including krumping and twerking. It’s bold, yet artificial, the dancers posing and pulsating.
Kay’s choreography is articulates the artifice it seeks to represent, yet for all its energy and bravado the show falls a little flat. It offers a tantalising glimpse into a shadowy world, but it continues for too long without revealing anything more. Though the piece has the potential to open up a dialogue on the toxicity of our celebrity-focused world, it can’t seem to get past its own glossy facade.