Back in 2017, we covered the news that choreographer Rosie Kay had teamed up with documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis and designer Gary Card on a contemporary dance performance called MK Ultra. The show went on to tour the country early last year. It is returning this weekend in a revised form for a performance in Liverpool for the city’s Leap dance festival and, ahead of the show, we caught up with Rosie to discuss the changes she’s made to it and the context that now surrounds the piece.
MK Ultra explores, among other things, the current political landscape and the idea that people are losing faith in politicians and instead starting to believe conspiracy theories derived from the internet. Sound familiar, perhaps? When it comes to this theme, Rosie reckons that perhaps the biggest change since last year has been to her audience. “Trump has come along and conspiracy theories are now everywhere,” she says. “People get the jokes now – they know the motifs we’re playing with and are more aware.”
The show was well received by critics last year, but that hasn’t stopped Rosie reworking it. “Anyone who saw the first performance will recognise it but it’s clearer, sharper and more on point now.” Instead of having multiple parallel storylines, the show is now more focused on the female protagonist, a Britney Spears-inspired character. According to Rosie, “Her rise and fall is now clearer."
The show focuses on one conspiracy theory in particular – and it’s definitely one of the weirder ones out there: namely, that the illuminati are controlling the minds of pop stars. This theme has been made more explicit in the newly designed show. “We now have an all-seeing eye right at the start of the show,” Rosie explains. “It controls the whole show.” Why the focus on this pretty out-there theory? Well, for Rosie, there’s a serious point at the heart of this that’s as true today as it was back in 2013 when she first started thinking about this project. “The show makes people question things more,” she explains. “I hope it makes the audience more aware. If we’re constantly distracted by Kim Kardashian, then we’ll be distracted from the failure of democracy. If we’re more aware, then maybe we can challenge the systems behind that.”
MK Ultra is on tomorrow evening in the Capstone Theatre at the Hope University Creative Campus in Liverpool. The Leap 2018 festival concludes this coming Monday.