The key conceit of Two Man Show, presented at the Edinburgh Fringe as part of the Northern Stage showcase, is that it is performed by two women, with a third providing musical accompaniment.
In this way the much-praised RashDash company – Abbi Greenland and Helen Goalen, with composer Beckie Wilkie – seek to expose the problems of patriarchy, and in particular to explore the limitations of language, both in allowing men to express their feelings and more particularly in enabling a discussion about the relationships between genders and the way both men and women want to be.
It is a noble aim, and a lot of energy and thought has gone into structuring this show, which opens with a rather funny, denounced and potted history lesson about the way in which patriarchy was created, and then becomes scenes in a drama about two warring brothers and their uneasy encounters as their father lies dying.
These scenes are punctuated by sequences of dance, which sometimes offer an alternative to what we have seen – supportive and entwined where the dialogue has been aggressive and pugnacious – or a commentary on our views of the body. One, where Greenland (as an artist) mounds Goalen into the poses of classical statues is particularly effective.
A lot of this is performed nude, or semi-nude, for reasons that are only sometimes clear. For all its commitment and skill – the dance in particular is well done – I found it almost unbearable. It felt too smug and self-involved, too pleased with its own cleverness. Yet for all its supposed radical thinking, the actual drama presented is hackneyed in the extreme, and the ideas debated are occluded rather than revealed by the treatment they receive.
Two Man Show runs at 20.15 at Summerhall until 27 August (not Wednesdays).