Dancing off to war

5 soldiers

War becomes personal when it is kill or be killed. Picture: Tim Cross

5 Soldiers – The Body is the frontline

Birmingham Rep


5 SOLDIERS is as much a project as a dance piece from the Birmingham based Rosie Kay Dance Company.

It stems from an idea Rosie Kay had of expressing soldiering, and to some extent her anger about the way soldiers were sent into battle by politicians and they way they were treated – injury rates were hidden and the MOD did not make amputation statistics available until 2010 for example.

Rosie Kay spent time with The 4th Battalion The Rifles in 2008 and from that first hand experience evolved the full length dance theatre work, the first platoon, so to speak, of 5 Soldiers which opened and toured in 2010.

Just as war and the role of the military has evolved so has the piece with the next wave of recruits in this latest incarnation in its premiere at Birmingham REP.

The performance, incidentally, was on the main stage, turned into a studio format for the occasion, and what an impressive size the Rep stage area really is.

Into that space we find five squaddies, four men and a girl, Duncan Anderson, Sean Marcs, Oliver Russell, Chester Hayes and Shelley Eva Haden.

We go through training, marching drills and the endless boredom of waiting around for deployment, transfers, orders . . .

There is tension, fit young men, and women, trained to kill . . . or be killed, crowded together with little to occupy them. Camaraderie and conflict can be close companions. There is also the distraction of women in front line units. No matter how professional, how well trained or well disciplined a soldier, baser instincts and carnal desires are a powerful force to be reckoned with.

Then there is war, the operations and battles, with soldiers working as one under fire and under threat and, all too often, taking casualties and finally the aftermath of war, a double amputee, struggling to come to terms with his new situation as a soldier.

Behind them, on a sparse set of old tyres,  is a video wall whish shows bleak scenes mixed with endless computer code, all designed by Louis Price, all to a background of music created by Annie Mahtani with elements of punk, opera and oratarios, fitting and always interesting.

The message is simple. No matter how sophisticated or advanced the weaponry, the nitty gritty of war comes down to boots on the ground, making the body, the soldier, the real frontline, and where that body fights is all at the whim, will, policy or political expediency of Governments and politicians. Soldiers don’t pick wars, politicians do.

The piece is thought provoking, at times moving and has the air of authenticity that comes from all five dancers having spent time with army units. 5 Soldiers will be touring until mid June with visits to barracks and army camps mixed among the theatres. After all it is telling a soldiers’ story so who better to see and hear it. To 25-04-15

Roger Clarke



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