Dance, Physical Theatre & Circus review: Hard to be Soft, Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

When Oona Doherty speaks, it’s like a stream of consciousness.

Hard to be Soft, Lyceum Theatre

Hard to be Soft, Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh * * * *

You can read it in the programme notes, hear it in the show’s closing moments. It’s hard to grasp the nuance of everything she’s saying, but the intent comes across loud and clear.

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When Oona Doherty dances, it’s like everything is right in the world. This is where she – and you – are supposed to be right now. Her body was born to dance, to move loose-limbed, then suddenly change direction as if instructed by an unknown force. We don’t know what every move means, but the intent comes across loud and clear.

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All of The Scotsman's 5-star reviews from the 2019 festivals

In her opening solo, Doherty’s smooth, fluid movement is in sharp contrast to the (seemingly real) soundtrack of late-night altercation we hear. These are people for whom violence and conflict is normal, crystallising in their bones as they grow up.In part two, local recruits become the “ ‘Sugar Army” – a gang of female teenagers dressed to impress, inspired by Doherty’s school pals in Belfast. As the voiceover of a real Belfast woman says, life’s a little better “if you’re in a s***hole but you look f***ing amazing”. Meat Kaleidoscope follows, a duet for two strapping men playing a father and son who can only communicate through physicality – gripping on wrestling-style, when deep down they’d rather be hugging.

If only there was more of this, much more.

Kelly Apter