With such a vast number of shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, it is not surprising that I wasn’t able to see everything I wanted to. That’s why I was so relieved that RashDash’s newest project, Two Man Show, was playing at the Soho Theatre in London this September. Two Man Show is a fast-paced, high energy look at gender, language and patriarchy. Helen Goalen and Abbi Greenland use a large combination of performance styles to communicate what it means to be a man and a woman, because “the words that exist aren’t good enough”.
The performance space splits the room in half and with few props the company are able to perform to the whole audience. Goalen and Greenland rush about the stage with such intensity that it feels like the space was created specifically for this performance, it seems odd to think of anything other than Two Man Show being performed in the room.
The show begins with a story, a brief history of gender starting with male and female relationships in Neolithic times. The origins of patriarchy if you will. Goalen and Greenland are accompanied on the drums by Becky Wilkie, the production’s musician. Her contribution is just as fundamental to the show as Goalen and Greenland’s, as she provides many of the vocals in addition to the drums. Unfortunately, due to some poor sound mixing the first song was difficult to understand as the words were drowned out slightly, which is a shame as the show could do with a few more songs as it stands. Luckily this problem disappeared later on in the show. Throughout the performance dance and movement play an important role, and very impressively the energy of the performers doesn’t seem to lag at any point.
Perhaps it was because the dancing and movement is so expressive, strong and well-choreographed that I felt disappointed when it stopped and Goalen and Greenland told the story of two estranged brothers, Dan and John. Reunited due to their father’s illness, they express their desire to have more control in their lives. Though the story of the brothers is touching and the dialogue humorous it feels safe and sits uneasily with the more innovative rest of the piece.
The show contains rather a lot of nudity, perhaps more nudity than clothes – even the technician is naked! Seeing nudity on stage can sometimes be uncomfortable for audience members; it was for me initially. However after a while it becomes normal and it feels almost freeing, seeing other people that comfortable with their bodies. The way Goalen and Greenland lift and support each other so effortlessly has to be commended. Their closeness is not surprising since the company formed in 2009 when Greenland and Goalen met at the University of Hull.
The ending of this 70 minute show is so satisfying. Goalen and Greenland communicate two different viewpoints on what being a female means. Their acknowledgement that every woman is different, that being softly spoken, kind-hearted and apologetic doesn’t make you any less important than women who want to talk loudly, wear trousers and swear is what feminism, for me in any case, is about.
Two Man Show is playing Soho Theatre until October 1.
Photo: The Other Richard