Why should a boyfriend take precedence over a best friend who knows you inside out, from your deepest fears to silliest foibles? In RashDash’s blisteringly powerful physical performance, friends Bea and Dee wrestle their way through this question in a pas de deux of female co-dependence, love and desperation.
There are plenty of brilliantly observed one-liners – “Of course I’m a grown-up, I shop at Whistles!” – as they dissect each other, in an effort to explain how they should or shouldn’t stay together. Dee is cool, wielding a cigarette holder and blowing out smoke to the tune of operatic trills. She hates grey, and will only wear black and white. Abbi Greenland gives her a satirical, sardonic edge Bea is more girlish, and attached to rituals and cutesy creature comforts – baths, pyjamas, washing up dances. Helen Goalen is energetic, with a whimsical edge that warps convincingly into a desperate need for emotional reinforcement at any cost. These differences are heightened in the constant grey ambiguity of their friendship after Bea moves out to live with her boyfriend. Living in separate houses, they can no longer be everything to each other.
Dee delivers a challenge: move out of his house, and we’ll be together. But when Bee actually does so, the idea of what “together” is becomes more and more complicated. Friendship isn’t a binding contract, but marriage is – or at least it could be. They consistently emphasise this isn’t a sexual relationship, but flirt with preconceptions about the closeness of female friendships. They move their faces together as if to kiss, then push first their cheeks together, then their whole bodies, in a platonic struggle of ideals around what a friend should be, and what role they should play. Their physical dynamic is exhilarating to watch, as they roll and tumble over each other in a tightly realised expression of their emotional push and pull.
Alison Mcdowell’s set design creates a faintly antiseptic arena through which Bee and Dee charge up and down – a white shiny corridor, which reflects their white neoprene dresses. All this pristine wipe-clean suggests that there’ll be carnage on the way, but instead it’s more of an aesthetic antidote to the tweeness of the text – its femininity is held at arm’s length, shrinkwrapped so as not to contaminate the intensity of the performance’s message.
This shiny sterility is part of Bea and Dee’s self-consciousness as performers – they’re desperate to be taken seriously, even as we hear them chat offstage about whether they’ve had their dinner, or interrupt the piece for urgent phonecalls.
But it’s an ironising, undermining frame that they don’t really need. RashDash feel at their strongest when they’re shouting painful truths or moving in deceptive, uncertain harmony, in a physical theatre therapy session for a broken friendship.