Note: This review is from the 2021 Fringe

Rituel is a pointed exploration of masculinity and of society’s expectations around gender roles, questioning the inevitability of the outcome when conditioning and personal experience shapes a child from the beginning. It’s a mixture of dance, live music and the spoken word from up and coming Matsena Productions.

The show begins with a boy finding his feet and then exploring the brave new world in which he finds himself. But from an early age, he’s encouraged to behave a certain way and to make certain choices – irrespective of his own preferences. (A particularly poignant reflection from a group of male dancers – though this is a million miles from Billy Elliot.) We follow him through to teenage years and his discovery of alcohol in a wittily choreographed sequence followed by his online explorations of sex. The sex education rap (Charlie Layburn) is magic.

The guys are all cracking dancers. Shane David-Joseph has an easy charm, whether he’s chatting with the audience as we arrive in our seats, playing the overbearing parent or filling the stage with his teenage strut. Brothers Anthony and Kel Matsena move with a fluid grace and have orchestrated a show with a taut dynamism that veers into menace at its thought-provoking culmination. And Johnny Hail creates an atmospheric supporting soundscape with a combination of guitar, some pre-recorded music and hypnotic looping.

This isn’t a new narrative. If you’re interested in the topic, you’ll have seen this sort of story before. There were occasional glitches with the performers’ mics across the fifty minutes. And the group are all such strong performers that they’d make easy work of more complicated material. But it’s a pleasure to see such spiky, funny, considered dance, set at Multistory against the beautiful backdrop of Edinburgh’s castle.