There’s no doubting the raw energy and physicality of this show, a work of dance theatre that definitely prefers choreography to speech, and uses it—along with some pretty stark staging and a thumping score—to great effect. Of course, given the almost non-stop power moves on display here, it’s amazing that any of the cast have the breath to speak, but that’s what skill, stamina and taking turns in the spotlight can ensure.
...its dramatic effect is far more powerful than you might think.
We naturally first see the Rhythm Rascals at the supposed top of their game, in a visual staccato of poses and dance moves to a soundtrack of heavy beats and recorded audience fervour. This is soon contrasted with a glimpse of their lives off-stage: Manchurian Joshua Smith’s “Oh My Josh!” posting selfies in the bathroom; Swede Pontus Linder’s “Fluid Druid” and his deep-breath exercises; Antti Kyllönen’s “Antti Freeze” focusing on his wardrobe; and now-Dundee-based Latvian Oleg Kiricenko’s “Prime”—the supposed leader of the group—in the kitchen. They seem a disparate group, but not yet foundering.
During the subsequent rehearsals, though, the cracks in this b-boy crew start to become clear. There’s Prime’s annoyance with Fluid Druid’s habitual lateness, taken as a sign of not taking the group seriously enough. There’s Oh My Josh’s declared belief that, ultimately, he’s like Superman—destined to go it alone. (It’s a good metaphor, at least until you remember the Justice League of America.) But it’s Prime’s idea of using a classical music remix that shows their future; Oh My Josh and Fluid Druid momentarily go with the idea, but Antti Freeze almost physically slaps them out of it.
Although the story of the group’s fracturing is hardly original, there’s a genuine sensitivity in the portrayal of these strong young men’s relationships and dreams—not least the increasing clashes between their innate camaraderie and increasingly sweaty rivalries. Hip hop may not have a reputation for subtlety even in dance circles but here—most especially in group’s final, disastrous performance—Room 2 Manoeuvre prove its dramatic effect is far more powerful than you might think.