The Student
‘Open, telling, and extremely raw’: Sound Cistem review
by Ailish Moore, 25/08/19

Electronic music blaring, two people take the stage, moving in slow motion, lit by disco lights in primary colours. They introduce themselves, explaining that they are transgender, before breaking out into almost an hour of dance; the lights and music mimicking that of a nightclub. 

Prior to the show, they had interviewed a range of transgender and non-binary people aged 18-25 about their struggles and experiences. Snippets of these interviews serve as a voiceover throughout the performance, set in time to the music in an almost melodic way, despite the jarring nature of the content at times. The performers dance in perfect sync with one another, interpretive movements that not only reflect what is being said in the interviews and the tone of music, but serve as a visual aid too. The dancers illustrate the words of the interviewees, using their bodies to do so and thereby reclaiming what is often a site for symbolic violence. 

Sound Cistem challenges society’s norms. An innovative concept for a Fringe performance, it explores the gendered expectations present in nightclubs, from bathrooms and smoking areas to clothing and sexuality. It rejects this cisgendered premise, presenting a performance uninhibited by society’s norms  that is both insightful and emotional. With nothing on stage but the two individuals using only their bodies as a means of communication, the focus is entirely on them, and yet they keep the audience absorbed throughout. They are skilful dancers; the way they move across the stage and employ facial expression is masterful. Likewise, the interviews – open, telling and extremely raw – ask us to question our own preconceptions and consequent behaviour in a space that we are all  familiar with. 


One line from an interview is particularly striking: “no human being’s life should be controversial.” The lasting message of the performance is the importance of creating a sense of unity and understanding, a feeling you can truly understand as the performers ask to shake our hands one-by-one as we leave the venue.

Sound Cistem is on at ZOO Playground, Playground 1

At 21:20 until 26th August

Book tickets here

Image: Hannah Pye