RashDash’s The Frenzy is perfectly pitched for Latitude. Based on The Bacchae, this thirty minute music and dance show was composed by Becky Wilkie, who joins company founders and physical theatre fanatics Abbi Greenland and Helen Goalen at the festival’s Outdoor Theatre Stage. The fusion of live and recorded music with slick choreography is rather more cohesive than in some of their previous work; in 2011’s Scary Gorgeous, for example, the accomplished physicality, comic drama and live rock band all seemed slightly discordant. Unlike their previous work as a company however, The Frenzy has no dialogue, and instead takes the form of some beautiful folky vocal harmonies and resonant stage images as the three women sing the virtues of sensual pleasure and hedonism. The setting, with its towering trees and dusty, gnarly-rooted audience pit, lends the piece an almost site-specific feel as onlookers sit, exposed to the elements and drinking in the Saturday afternoon showers.
Mirroring the popular aesthetic of Latitude and the festival-wear of many of its revellers, the three women are decked out in boho-chic, with gypsy skirts in vibrant patterns. After entering solemnly dressed in black, they shake hands and ritually shed their outer layers to begin the bacchic rites, rolling on the floor, legs kicking and apparently surrendering to total pleasure: “I’m a sensation seeker”, one of them sings. Lyrically, the music is sensually evocative, with these maenads calling on the “voice of drum” and “serpent song”. However, the polished and occasionally po-faced movement, as well as the honey-like innocence of the vocal blending, doesn’t quite match up to the raw earthiness of their words; “we’re savage”, they sing, but I’m not sure I believe them, and at times it all plays out like an extended Florence and the Machine music video.
Whilst we see the women transform from restrained, polite figures into “animals” who “want to feel good”, The Frenzy perhaps lacks the conflict or breadth of ideas for a truly engaging performance. The show’s co-directors have said of their characters: “They drink, they open their throats to the skies, and they move until they can’t stand anymore. Then they go home, and everything is as it was, and yet somehow changed.” But although this idea reflects the temporal nature of Latitude pretty well, pleasure in moderation leaves no space for the performers to play with the dark limits of Dionysian energy: where is the realisation that “Dionysus destroys us all”? Thebes, after all, was almost annihilated in Euripides’s tragedy, which ends on a woman holding her son’s severed head and attempting to piece together his mutilated body. Then again, maybe that’s a bit of a downer for a festival.
The meeting of three women has heralded some of the most exhilarating moments of theatre history (on this occasion, we had no thunder or lightening, but a light smattering of rain) and this weird-folk outing is a fun, skilfully constructed half hour with music so gorgeous I’d like it on a CD (can this happen?). But, like Latitude itself (“the festival for people who don’t go to festivals”, as the woman in front of me at the falafel stand put it) the piece is more a considered, high-spirited frolic than a full-on frenzy.
The Frenzy played at Latitude Festival. For more shows and for future festivals see the Latitude Festival website.