Edinburgh Fringe 2016
A two man show played by two women exploring the patriarchy and how language affects how men and women interact and communicate – or fail to. Expect music, dance, nudity and a whirlpool of ideas.
Rash Dash’s latest show, Two Man Show, at Summerhall looks at the words we use and the spaces we negotiate to ‘do’ gender. It starts with the two performers, Abbi Greenwood and Helen Goalen, dressed in sparkly seventies spacesuit style, giving us some lessons from herstory, because as they tell us, ‘we know everything’. A quick and amusing run through the patriarchy primer tells us that once upon a time in a matriarchy far, far away things were very different.
The play cuts away to scenes from today with a naturalistic narrative play intercut with dance and movement. Two long estranged brothers, Dan and John, get together as their father lies dying in another room; they talk to each other at a distance – there is physical and emotional space between them. The space between the words is as important as the words themselves. Then at junctures where the words break down, Abbi and Helen, dance – they climb on one another, they intertwine themselves, they throw each other about. They express things which the words won’t stretch to. And for most of the time in this middle section of the show, they are topless. The two men are topless in the way that men are often somehow gender-neutral topless in a way women can never be, and in that nonchalant bravado they express that distance between the sexes is expressed through the body as well as through words.
Somehow the most narrative and easily accessible part of the show, the drama between the two brothers, is the piece that appears to work the least well. It feels a little tired, a little flat and cliched. As indeed it is and is intended to be – it’s a pastiche of the way that drama talks about men being unable to talk to each other. And Rash Dash are saying this isn’t good enough: we need to move beyond this – it’s too lazy and too static.
And then in what would be the third act, if Rash Dash were so conventional, the characters break free from their constructs and interact in sequential monologues that are raging torrents of venom for the spaces we enclose ourselves in. Greenland strides the stage as John claiming the space as his own. Goalen follows this up by reclaiming female space. Each seems very far away from the other; neither feels like the whole story.
These are big and brave performances by Greenwood and Goalen, and loud live music from Becky Wilkie.
It’s a show about male power and privilege, about gender and language. Tow Man Show opens with a sketch inspired by a 1970s feminism that came up with a reinterpretation of history and a goddess centred spiritualism to circumvent male power, Rash Dash asks us how far we’ve moved on since then and whether we’ve found any of the answers. In a show about language where the words just can’t say what needs to be said, the answer has to be no. Messy and energetic, Two Man Show leaves us with some important questions about language and power.