The Populars (3 stars)

The Populars

credit: Studiocano

An energetic celebration of the unifying power of dance

Volcano Theatre insist on a dynamic dramaturgy that challenges existing ways of making theatre. Their previous visit to the Fringe radically reworked Chekhov's Seagulls with a tough, physical style, and a tank of water that transformed their venue into a watery dreamscape. For 2019, director Paul Davies wants to get political.

One of four frenetic dancers stops briefly to grab an audience member's hands, look them square in the eyes and say: 'Are you ready?' They're not given time to answer before their hands are flung across the dancer's sweaty face, onto his stubbly, sweaty neck and down onto his soaked chest. They're thrust aside before they can process what's happened.

The Populars manages to gather its audience of standoffish Brits into all sorts of random interaction with strangers, and best is that its actors don't make interactive moments feel contrived or like forced fun. To get a prudish audience to engage with one another is a great thing by all accounts, and Davies' show certainly has limitless energy.

More than just isolated moments, nearly three quarters of the show comprises the cast dancing wildly and erratically to nostalgic pop and rock songs in the space, contorting their bodies in ways that almost become gruesome, but are addictive to watch all the same. The pace and spectacle of the show are thrilling enough to make you forget you're standing the whole time and haven't been offered a seat.

The thread that connects all this is the sweet message that dancing is a coping mechanism for us all in tough times. But in moments of speech the show shoehorns in political themes about Brexit which feel unnecessary: having a show about the power of friends united by dance - and indeed the power of dance to unite us all - is a powerful enough political message as it is.

Summerhall, until 25 Aug (not 12, 19), 9.20pm, £12 (£8)

The Populars

  • 3 stars

Volcano Theatre A fun, young, provocative foursome raises the heat on the dance floor. They are looking to the future and wondering how it will feel when we get there. They have questions for you, things on their minds and a playlist of great songs that tug at the memory and the muscle fibres. Tell them what you think…

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