Review: 'Two Man Show' at Soho Theatre

Being a feminist can be guilty work. Never more so, for me, than at the theatre. There are some really unfunny feminist comedies out there, let me tell you, and whenever I watch one I feel a crushing shame that by disliking another woman’s work I’m not supporting the cause.

During the opening minutes of RashDash’ latest piece Two Man Show I felt the slow creep of that old guilt. Three women enter in full goddess regalia, singing wordlessly in unison, before the music scratches to a halt and they launch into a potted history of mankind. They tell us that that men, afraid of the magical reproductive power of women, established their systems of oppression over us out of fear. One of those systems of oppression, they later explain, is language.

When they break into Riot-Grrrl style song, I’m more unconvinced than ever. But when the leads Abbi Greenland and Helen Goalan begin to look into one another’s eyes, feeling out the rhythm and screaming the lyrics to one another like it’s a pagan ritual, I find myself unexpectedly moved. The rest of the performance is characterised by moments like this for me. Scenes or segues that I find initially uncomfortable grow onstage - and on me - until the tears begin to prick.

The bones of the narrative is a sitcom-esque depiction of two estranged brothers, brought together again by the imminent death of their father. Toxic masculinity distances them, and attempts at communication fail. These scenes are inter-spliced with interpretive dance interludes, which - as per the pattern - at first I find a bit mortifying only later to find myself basking in their fecund power. The movements are at once muscular and tender, their mutual trust palpable as they hold one another.

These interludes are vital to the narrative. The brothers can’t connect because they can’t find the words, but when Greenland and Goalan shed their male personas and dance, bare-breasted at first, then completely naked, they’re in perfect communication with one another. In music and dance they break free of the confines of man-made language. 

When Greenland refuses to break male character to perform a dance because she, or rather he, likes the way being male feels, it’s as though he’s been seduced by the trappings of masculine language - it seems to hold a special power, but its abortive, not generative, and he collapses to the floor exhausted. Goalan contrasts his verbal assault with her own, quiet, dance-aided expression of her gendered use of language. It’s calming and quite beautiful, and gives way to the re-emergence of the three goddesses singing in unison once again. This time, I don’t laugh.

Their run at the Soho Theatre ends Saturday 4th March 2017, get tickets here: http://www.sohotheatre.com/whats-on/two-man-show-2017/

Photo from RashDash Website, copyright the artist - http://www.rashdash.co.uk/look/