Before it starts its UK tour at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe next month, Rosie Kay Dance Company is coming to Woolwich to perform a unique 25-minute outdoor version of 5 Soldiers on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 July.
As part of the GDIF festival strand All Roads Lead to Woolwich, the company will perform in the bombed out St. George’s Garrison Church opposite Woolwich Barracks, giving the work a site-specific poignancy.
5 Soldiers explores the role of the body in warfare and the experiences that soldiers have, both mental and physical. When asked why she’s looking forward to presenting this re-working of the piece at Greenwich+Docklands International Festival, choreographer Rosie Kay said:
It’s such a pleasure to be bringing our unique version of 5 Soldiers to GDIF this weekend. We’ve done outdoor shows in past with 5 Soldiers; in the street, shopping centres, outside Army bases, but once I heard what the location was going to be I had a serious re-think. Dancing a work about war, in a bomb destroyed church has real meaning and power, and I think that can be reflected in the show.
I wanted somehow to capture some of the mystery and atmosphere of the full length show, and I wanted to have some of the sound-score. Because of this, I decided to do a totally new re-work, with a similar structure to the full length show, in three parts, and a bit more of the journey; from training and drill, to messing out in PT, to the thrill and fear of being in an alien and hostile environment and the threat of injury. I think we’ve achieved that, and there are moments of fun and beauty, and great music with Annie Mahtani’s sound-score, The Clash and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. I can’t wait to see how it looks in the church, and to see what it does to the work; I think it could be quite moving and powerful.”
Woolwich has a particularly rich military history, being home to numerous military establishments with stunning architecture. The Royal Artillery Barracks, which housed the Royal Artillery for nearly 300 years, shows off the longest Neoclassical façade in London. The Royal Military Academy at the south end of Woolwich Common also has an impressive façade, this time in Mock Tudor style. Despite its current grandeur, the Royal Military Academy initially gained the modest nickname ‘The Shop’ because of its first location in a converted workshop. Historic England now cites it as ‘one of the most important pieces of military architecture in the country”.
The Garrison Church of St George was hit by a V-1 flying bomb during the Second World War and only its shell remains today. Amazingly, several mosaics survived the bombing, the largest being an image of Saint George and the Dragon which was part of a memorial dedicated to Royal Artillery members who’d been awarded the Victoria Cross.
To prepare for the upcoming performances, the five dancers recently worked alongside the Army on three days of combat exercises deep in the Scottish countryside. For this, they joined Exercise Solway Eagle, involving members of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards who are soon to be deployed on an overseas peace-keeping mission.
Dancer Reece Causton, from Norfolk said
Talking to the troops and seeing them at work is incredibly valuable, it’s gold dust. As dancers we absorb it all, so the movements and the way they interact all comes out in our performance and gives a strong sense of realism.”
Here’s a clip of the dancers rehearsing in the studio today.
In previous years, 5 Soldiers attracted 5 star reviews from The Scotsman, The Herald and The Observer, as well as receiving a Special Commendation from the Royal Society of Public Health in recognition of its excellent contribution to arts and health practice.
Rosie Kay Dance Company has recently become one of Arts Council England’s newest National Portfolio Organisations, so come and see them in action this Friday and Saturday in Woolwich!
5 Soldiers will return to London in September with full hour-long performances taking place inside military venue Yeomanry House, presented in association with Sadler’s Wells.
St. George’s Garrison Church, Grand Depot Road, Woolwich, SE18
Friday 7 July, 1.45pm & 5.45pm
Saturday 8 July, 1pm & 5pm
Free & un-ticketed