The unifying theme in this double bill is muddled realities, with 2Faced’s five resident dancers, all men, tackling two surreal and drastically different works – one a dystopian vision of a world without women, the other a meditation on memory and dreams.
The first – Eddie Kay’s milk night, choreographed for physical theatre company Frantic Assembly – is equal parts theatre and dance, complete with dialogue, projections and costume changes. The action takes place on a set kitted with three camping tents, a hint our protagonists are in the early stages of charting this woman-less landscape. The performers confirm this with garbled talk of change and fear and forgetting. “I don’t want to go first,” one frets, while another gazes longingly into the distance only to be told: “She isn’t there, mate.” Their fragmented speech serve to establish a confused, uneasy mood, but they have the unfortunate effect of distancing rather than drawing in the audience: without knowing the characters’ backstories or motives, it’s difficult to feel too invested in their plight.
The piece hits a more stimulating stride when the dancing takes centre stage and the rewards of an all-male group become clear. In a frenzy of rapid-fire leaps and lifts, the performers hoist and fling one another to arresting heights, handling each other’s weight with great agility and strength. There’s also an unexpected, though not unwelcome, disco scene that sees them strut to flashing lights and boogie tunes. These bursts of energy convey the group’s disquiet much more effectively than the disjointed yammering of the first half, but it’s not long before such talk resumes. The work closes with a video of a woman projected onto one of the tents while two performers, one dressed in a woman’s nightgown, embrace despairingly. It’s an ambiguous note to end on – does their distress represent defeat? – but the broader sense of brotherly affection rings loud and clear.
Tamsin Fitzgerald’s Lucid Grounds is steadier in its pacing and a more cohesive work overall. Here the dancers lunge and dive in front of mirrored panels reflecting shadowy distortions of their movement. The theatrical aspects – smoke, flickering lights, booming music – are dramatic but measured, never superseding the dancing as the main focal point. There’s an urgent edge to the choreography, a deft reflection of the emotions the piece throws up: uncertainty, panic, resolve. Again, the power of an all-male cast is on display as the dancers hurl themselves around vigorously, their unison emanating a whiff of gang mentality.
Like Kay’s piece, Fitzgerald’s mixes turbulent sequences with quieter ones, although the tension here feels more focused. There’s some creative use of tempo, and the costuming – reminiscent of The Matrix, with the men clad in dark trench coats – syncs well with the dancing, their coattails swishing audibly with each spin and swing. 2Faced is a tight and practiced troupe, and Dreaming in Code makes prudent use of its talent, particularly in this energising piece.