10 Soldiers review: the performance feels like reading a fascinating book

10 Soldiers. Picture: Supplied by Norwich Theatre Royal

10 Soldiers. Picture: Supplied by Norwich Theatre Royal - Credit: Supplied by Norwich Theatre Royal

This hard-hitting piece of dance, perfomed last night at the Norwich Theatre Royal, takes an intimate look into the life of a soldier.

It's been a labour of love for Director and Choreographer Rosie Kay, whose own dance injury prevented her from following her chosen path. Her loss seemed so world-ending, that she began to wonder what it might be like for those whose Army career had been shattered after being wounded.

While developing the work in 2010, Kay was given privileged access to the British Infantry and 4th Batallion The Rifles. She also spent time in more than one military rehabilitation centre.

With so much research, it's hardly surprising that the evening is absorbing. Watching the performance feels like reading a fascinating book. The narrative takes us on a riveting journey, from training to exchange of gunfire, and then on to injury, trauma and the rebuilding of a life.

But what makes the evening particularly engaging is the detail that Kay puts in. From the glances between the soldiers and the minutiae of how to march and hold a gun, Army life is meticulously set before us. There's plenty of humour, too.

And dance is the perfect medium for putting us in touch with the soldiers' reality, because the expressive movements cut straight through to our emotions. The rhythms and music help us really tune in to their experience.

To create the scene or focus attention, the only set is a giant projection. It sets our sights down the barrel of a gun, or flickers images of fields below as the soldiers parachute into enemy territory.

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A curtain opener, commissioned by Rosie Kay Dance Company and choreographed by Xenoula Eleftheriades, offered Norfolk dancers the chance to explore the evening's themes.

The ease and confidence of the Theatre Royal's training groups: Ensemble and Airborne, was matched by the assurance of young people from Norfolk Family Carers.

Particularly memorable was singer Lily Ayers as she accompanied the dancers with an Italian Aria. Her sublime music was a poignant counterpoint to the brutality of war.