Fresh from the success of choreographing the Commonwealth Games Handover, Rosie Kay announces a second UK tour of MK ULTRA, including performances at Birmingham Hippodrome, LEAP Dance Festival Liverpool and London’s Southbank Centre.
MK ULTRA was originally created in collaboration with BBC journalist and BAFTA-winning filmmaker Adam Curtis in 2017 and is described as ‘a postmodern fantasia’ by The Observer.
Taking its name from the LSD-fuelled experiments conducted by the US Military in the 1950s and 1960s, MK ULTRA looks at the rise of conspiracy theory amongst young people and in particular the theory that these experiments have continued in the realms of pop music and fashion.
After extensive online research into conspiracy culture and interviews with 16-25 year olds from the Midlands, Kay and Curtis developed a hypothesis that ponders whether the lack of trust in politicians and established political systems has given rise to alternative theories of power and control. Hypnotic video design alternate with documentary-like sections of Curtis’ signature montage style, creating a kaleidoscope effect on audiences, both brainwashing and playful.
The show features costumes from Lady Gaga’s designer Gary Card, a gold mirrored stage, hypnotic triangular projections by Louis Price, a pulsing soundtrack of American trap music and a mesmerising score by electro-acoustic composer and University of Birmingham lecturer Dr Annie Mahtani.
For its second tour, MK ULTRA has been re-worked and developed further, with the storyline focusing on the rise and fall of the chosen pop princess. Initiation rites, pop video style vignettes and competitive bizarre thrusting dances dominate the stage, with highly choreographed dance mashing up popular street styles with a hard core of contemporary and balletic technique.
Set within a pop culture context, MK ULTRA does not overlook the manipulation of the female image in mainstream media, particularly the sexualisation of young girls and the pressure this can place on mental health. Juxtaposing over-the-top moves from music videos with representations of mental breakdowns, MK ULTRA reveals the dark side of the mainstream media with a saccharine-sweet dose of bubblegum popstars.
MK ULTRA at Southbank Centre will be followed by a post-show talk featuring Adam Curtis and Rosie Kay in discussion about the key themes running throughout the performance. Tickets are now on sale.
The tour will culminate at LEAP Dance Festival in Liverpool on Saturday 10 November.
Rosie Kay is one of the UK’s leading choreographers. She is celebrated for her athletic movement, rigorous research and intelligent theatricality, and is known for the five-star award-winning 5 SOLDIERS as well as choreographing 2018’s live televised Commonwealth Games handover broadcast globally to 1 billion people.