Theatre review: Two Man Show| Travesty

Abbi Greenland and Helen Goalen

Abbi Greenland and Helen Goalen

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They’ve been called the punk princesses of late night theatre; and half a decade ago they raked in awards for their rich and rowdy dance-cum-gig-cum-theatre shows about the absurdity of modern love, hate and gender politics.

Star rating: Two Man Show ****

Venue: Northern Stage at Summerhall (Venue 26)

Travesty ****

Assembly George Square Studios (Venue 17)

Now, though, Abbi Greenland and Helen Goalen of RashDash are a little older; and although their subject remains the same, this latest show, also featuring musician Becky Wilkie, offers what is perhaps their most profound meditation yet on how ideas about gender often still limit our sense of self.

The show begins, admittedly, with a bit of foolery which aims to tell the story of thousands of years of matriarchy in ten minutes or so. This absurdist prologue provides a necessary sense of context, though, for the sudden plunge into hard-edged contemporary drama that follows, as without changing costume – or indeed anything at all, except their stance and tone of voice – Abbi and Helen suddenly take on the characters of two thirty-
something brothers, forced into unaccustomed intimacy by the looming death of their father.

It takes a moment or two to work out exactly what has happened here, as the two brothers begin to express very different views about what 21st century masculinity might mean. Yet from the moment the shape of this dialogue becomes clear, Two Man Show goes from strength to strength, not losing its fierce performative energy – still visible in some powerful dance sequences, and in reflective moments between scenes – but driving it forward to a climactic and frightening moment, when one layer of reality threatens to merge irrevocably, and angrily, into the other.

Meanwhile, the young Fight In The Dog company presents Travesty, a debut play by comedy award-winner Liam Williams that uses this same theatrical device of cross-casting to tell the very simple tale of Ben and Anna, a couple who meet, fall in love, and part again. The only serious message – delivered through some deft and funny writing – is that people are human, regardless of gender, and that we can all be badly hurt in relationships; and Lydia Larsen as Ben, and Pierro Niel-Mee as Anna, do a fine job of conjuring up a pair of thoroughly believable characters, in what is – despite the gender-swap twist – one of the most familiar stories ever told.

Two Man Show until 27 August; today 8:15pm. Travesty until 28 August; today 5:30pm.

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