The Desk (5 stars)

The Desk

credit: Noomi Ljungdell

Balletic masterwork based on life in a cult

Finnish physical theatre group Reetta Honkakoski Company presents a brilliant piece of wordless storytelling, based on the founder's own experience of a cult. Taking the role of a dictator in this balletic masterwork involving only six desks and a lot of tightly synchronised movement, Honkakoski and the rest of the all-female cast explore group behaviour, totalitarianism, human ego and toxic seduction through corporeal mime.

Watching infighting, backstabbing, sycophancy and narcissism danced out in a series of impressive robotic or rag doll sequences, while their beloved leader casts a sinister spell over them with manipulative power games, is terrifyingly well done. The subtle creep of power is put across with tiny, smug, micro movements from Honkakoski while the fear and adulation from her disciples is conveyed with precise patterns of frenzied small flicks of hands reading books, or eyes darting about in terror.

The soundtrack is minimal and tense, using simple percussion and melody to build suspense, sounding a bit like a Steve Reich score with military bugles at one point. The facial expressions, use of the wooden desks and a particularly powerful pas de deux on wheels between the leader and her uniformed lackey make this a very memorable Fringe highlight. Highly recommended.

Summerhall, until 25 Aug (not 12, 19), 11.35am, £10 (£8).

The Desk

  • 5 stars

Reetta Honkakoski Company in association with From Start to Finnish One teacher. Five students. Five desks. A powerfully compelling show about dogma. Director Reetta Honkakoski mines her personal lived experience of a cult in this meticulous ensemble piece about the seductive power of discipline, hierarchy, mind…

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