5 Soldiers

Rosie Kay Dance Company

Army @ The Fringe in Association with Summerhall

From 11 August 2017 to 26 August 2017

Rating: ****

Review by Georgina Wells

5 Soldiers, Rosie Kay's choreographic foray into military life, is imbued with deeper meaning by its venue—the Army Reserve Centre on East Claremont Street. It's hard not to notice the terror threat level sign or the soldiers in uniform as you walk in.

The piece itself is divided into four clearly themed sections that cover most aspects of army life. The first uses regimented, repetitive movements to depict drills and training; the second portrays the five soldiers off duty, sparring playfully and miming to Katy Perry (a comic and unexpected addition). We see them on manoeuvres, a tense passage full of stillness and waiting and finally an injured soldier in rehabilitation, his legs strapped to force him to walk on his knees in clever imitation of an amputee.

The choreography is built on partner and ensemble work and intensely physically demanding throughout—it's also naturalistic in style, which helps the dancers to successfully portray members of the army.

The lone female soldier initially blends in but becomes the focus in a disturbing passage that references her difficult position in a male-centric world. As she dances an athletic solo, the four male soldiers follow her around the stage—first with their eyes, then their feet, and finally carry her through a series of predatory lifts. This is an uncomfortable watch—she's vulnerable, stripped down to just her underwear, which could be interpreted as a deliberate provocation of the male gaze. However, the fact that she's initially oblivious to their attentions does mean that it stops short of victim blaming.

5 Soldiers is an intense, fascinating and creative response to army life. However, there is little in the way of unique insight to challenge commonly-held stereotypes or surprise the audience.