Review: Rosie Kay Dance Company: MK ULTRA - Trinity Laban Theatre

Performance: Touring: 17 March - 18 May 2017
Reviewed by Asterope Tia Chatzinikola - Saturday 22 April 2017

Rosie Kay Dance Company, MK ULTRA. Photo credit: Brian Slater

Performance reviewed: 20 April 2017

Rosie Kay Dance Company throws us down the deep rabbit hole of conspiracy theories about CIA mind control, popstar programming and Illuminati symbolism. MK ULTRA: Delving into the Illuminati is Rosie Kay’s supercharged bold work exploring the pop culture and the structure of the world through a hypnotic optic lens.

A triangle film screen, an empty throne and light design by Mike Gunning set a ceremonial atmosphere. With the state ‘This is fake theatre’, MK ULTRA starts revealing a complicated thought process researching the shadowy elite of Illuminati and their brainwashing techniques.

Dancers slither down the stage with a glamorous and MTV-like projection of their body. The video clip-style with the unstoppable music beat edited by Annie Mahtani is blended with Louis Price’s video designs, shaping mystic visual illusions. Puppets of fame, the seven performers, float around in ecstasy forming a madhouse. They are shooting stars leaping through the stage, twerking, krumping and sky-high jumping. Gary Card’s skin-tight costumes showcase Illuminati symbols and magnetise us with their dominant presence.

The plot fluctuates between a well-tuned army and moments of their total disconnection. Progressively, they crash down and we witness their constant reprogramming into their previous hectic selves. The troops teeter between their implanted memories and worn out dreams. In a disarming and spine-chilling scene, Shelley Eva Haden is transferred to the empty throne and becomes its new queen. Unexpectedly, the chaotic fuss surrenders and Disney’s fairy dust fills the air ‘wishing upon a star’. Haden is now part of a sweet and kind fairy-tale and nothing reveals the mechanical parallel underworld.

Kay’s weird language is well developed and her iconoclastic skills powerful. In the post-show talk led by Luke Jennings, Kay and Adam Curtis encouraged us to anticipate MK ULTRA as the wider picture of ‘how the world is made’. The final decision of what is true or not is irrelevant. For me, the digging into research and the questions that arose excited me the most.

Touring: 17 March – 18 May 2017
Please click here for touring information

Asterope Tia Chatzinikola, is a professional dancer with a Literature degree. She studied at Central Saint Martins (MA Arts & Culture Enterprise) and she is a reviewer for and Dance Writer.

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