Kith/Kin is the title of a double bill by Anthony Missen and Kevin Turner (aka Company Chameleon) exploring masculinity. The opening piece, Before Night Fell, is choreographed by a woman, Beth Cassani, and is the softer of the two. Several wooden stumps are strewn on the stage. Missen, blindfolded, takes tentative steps on the upturned logs until he teeters and falls. Turner catches him, repositions him, replaces the stumps beneath his hovering feet. It is the first of a series of physical metaphors for their interaction, here evoking Missen’s blind trust that he is not walking alone. Later, they fling the logs as if passing the buck, or form a compound creature, like a kind of double dog. Strikingly, they are both dressed in scarlet military tunics, and a rasping wolfish pant keeps returning to the soundtrack; these two, you think, are lost, maybe hunted soldiers. Still, if the coats are specific, the choreography is generic, and Before Night Fell doesn’t amount to more than suggestive imagery and nifty lifts.
Rites, their own creation, is much more sharply drawn. It is also harder hitting, often literally. As a stressed-out father home from work, Missen repeatedly slams his keys on a shelf, making his son flinch with fear; as playground companions, Turner punches downwards into Missen’s upturned palms; as adults, they slam their bodies into the ground, into each other. Tenderness, even conviviality, appear only briefly; the rest is all bruised feelings and hardened hearts. In one nightmarish scene, they are lost soldiers again, unwittingly clasping hands – through fear.
Missen and Turner are fearless dancers and acute observers of human behaviour. Rites, better and more powerful than Before Night Fell, is also more brutal. I’d take the woman’s view of the men over the men’s view of each other, any day.