Threatening and questioning our identity, Rashdash’s clever new show stops in The Courtyard Theatre where LEO OWEN caught the show

Dressed in metallic like wise men and Elizabethan maidens, the show opens with the cast of three loudly harmonising until they comedically puff to a halt. Challenging our expectations from the first, their opening line acts as a warning: “What we are about to say may contradict everything you know”. This perplexing and slightly unnerving disclaimer is followed by an exposition of the history of the relationship between men and women, all delivered using comically squeaky voice changers.

Like alien intelligence watching mankind from above, Rashdash confound audience expectations by rejecting typical narrative threads and initially any sense of coherency but those who know their work expect nothing less. Known for pushing boundaries to create bold, daring and imaginative theatre, the company remain true to their reputation with Two Man Show including the whole cast soon performing entirely or partially naked for much of the show.

Unlike their concept and message, the set is surprisingly simple, emphasising the power of very physical performances. With the audience in rows either side of the stage area, an instrument-covered platform dominates one end, complete with light ring while strip lights and two microphones stand opposite. From plastic animal models being used to comedically act out early mating to ape and child-like movements, signifying evolution, and tribal dancing, each segment initially feels detached until a clever pattern begins to form; the story of brothers John (Abbi Greenland) and Dan (Helen Goalen) interweaves these at first seemingly unrelated segments.

Beautifully choreographed dance routines link, complement and compartmentalise their journey. In and out of character, Greenland and Goalen manipulate one another into amusing positions using a plinth; swagger around the stage as Becky Wilkie accompanies skilfully looping her music; up the male bravado with discus and gym moves backed by crazed J-rock and fence one another with wooden penises. Accompanying vocals are beautiful and original music has catchy lyrics and tunes.

Deliberately confusing in its deceptive name, Two Man Show is insane but collectively makes perfect sense. The duo literally dance around subjects, just like their characters “skirt” around their true identity, never fully embracing who or what they are. They break the fourth wall, argue in/out of character and play characters simultaneously to explore, challenge and blur gender stereotypes while graphically exposing the deceptions of our “man-made” language. Abbi’s concluding solo is reminiscent of Trainspotting Renton’s final ranting monologue and contrasts with Helen’s, effectively showing the extremes of stereotypes with awkward silences and hesitations.

Deservedly a Fringe 2016 winner, Two Man Show boasts faultless, energetic and powerful performances. Exploring the human struggle, sexuality and relationships, it’s a raw genuinely moving emotional rollercoaster. Greenland and Goalen have a clever tightly-structured concept presented bravely, leaving viewers to ponder and marvel long after it’s finished.

Two Man Show showed in Leeds 21-22 September 2017 before continuing its UK tour: