A dimly lit stage, five women and their leader, to whom they will give everything until there is nothing left to give: this is the basic set-up for Reetta Honkakoski Company’s captivating piece of physical theatre The Desk.
A masterclass in precision ensemble movement.
The opening sequence of movements has the feeling of a clowning performance, even verging on slapstick at a couple of points. However, the performance gradually gets darker and more intense. The music provides the perfect backing score: a relentless beat perfectly matching the performers who seem almost trapped by their own movements. The show is inspired by the director’s own lived experience of a cult, making for an intriguing, unique and truthful stimulus for a performance.
The cast present a masterclass in precision ensemble movement. Every darting eye movement is intentional, with even the smallest divergence from their exact unison immediately drawing attention. All choreography is performed with amazing skill and control, whether that be impressively smooth slow motion or the fast-paced rolling of desks, last-minute, out of a collision course. The only set on stage is the desks which are creatively and purposefully used throughout. Tension builds throughout the piece, at times creating a sense of tangible fear for the women on stage. What would happen if they are seen to be stepping out of line by their leader?
The group's intimate dynamics and trust in each other was evident - this is a true ensemble performance. Sections where only one or two performers were on stage felt weaker than the ensemble sequences where the company showed their true mesmerising strength. There is extensive use of repetition throughout each section of movements; unfortunatly at times some of these did begin to drag. When the intensity isn’t growing during repetitions, it's easy to desire that the chorography moves on to the next exciting instalment.
The Desk is a captivating piece of physical theatre which viscerally encapsulates the intense group-think mentality of an oppressive system, with each performer displaying millatry level precision and physical skill.