Review: Slut, Summerhall

Slut is a developing yet impressive piece of physical theatre and dance by Amina Kayyam Dance Co. It aims to explore and challenge perceptions of female sexuality, and the way it is often undermined and demonised by society. The piece also tackles themes of sexual exploitation and prostitution through dance, confronting difficult issues with graphic and powerful representations of sexual violence.

Standing up to insults such as “slut” is done effectively in the bold, strong movements throughout this piece. The dancers have a power in them which defiantly communicates the message of the show; to reclaim a label and embrace powerful female sexuality.

Though this message is clear throughout, there are some parts of the piece in which the narrative gets slightly lost. The ambiguity to the show works well at points, leaving interpretation largely up to the audience. However, occasionally a lack of clarity means that the show loses out on the full emotional impact it could deliver. It is sometimes tricky to understand what is being communicated through the dance, as scenes move quickly and make the show occasionally confusing. The final scene, which is comic rather than serious like the rest of the piece, jars slightly, as the transition from emotional to humorous is rather sudden. The dancing itself is elegant and emotive, expressing well the anger, vulnerability and defiance of the narrative. Costume is used simply but carefully in order to complement the movements.

Some of the most emotive parts in the piece are those which convey a childlike innocence that has been exploited. The simple prop of a teddy bear contrasts shockingly with scenes of exploitation and violence. Impressive acting also accompanies the dancing, adding more expression and emotion to the show.

An effective and beautiful use of props is also evident in the use of a string of fairy lights incorporated into the dance, creating shapes of light and adding a magic to the movements.

Slut is an effective piece of physical theatre which sends a strong message and explores difficult subjects in new ways. Though it lacks clarity at some points, it takes up important space by addressing issues such as sexual grooming. It is a promising piece of physical theatre in development.

Slut played at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.