Review: Stuntman

Beautifully lithe and tender duet exploring relationships with violence

dance review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Photo by Brian Hartley
Published 17 Aug 2023

On one level this is two lads playfully uppercutting, smacking, legsweeping, stabbing and shooting each other relentlessly. There’s plenty mock-punch and shoot-ups as they work though every action movie trope going (with nods to all the famous ‘Johns’, definitely some Arnie, Bond and Sly too). We see slo-mo brawls and a Matrix-style long coat, hear kung fu sound effects and cheesy one liners just before brutal massacres. Things rise to a whole new level though with the addition of backstory from both performers about their relationship with violence.

Queer actor-acrobat Sadiq Ali and performance artist-parkour coach David Banks take turns to describe personal run-ins with assault; the fear and fantasy of it, the supposed sense of control that physical force can bring a man. But their memories turn sour with flashes of homophobic abuse and racist slurs, plus the physical and emotional damage that violence often leaves behind.

Ali’s beautifully lithe and tender dance solo brings a welcome burst of vulnerability and softness to the onslaught of macho bravado, while Banks’ realisations about his fetishising of fighting feel like very casual but necessary insights into toxic masculinity. Might isn’t always right but clearly neither is bottling, masking or bluffing. A sweet awakening between two boy friends and a gentle provocation about dangerous cis het culture in the midst of many cartoon kick ins.