Posts Tagged ‘Lloyd Newson’

Lloyd Newson’s latest verbatim piece was meant to be about assisted suicide, but personal bereavement meant he switched direction to love and life, which became love and sex, and the process of questionnaires and interviews began. One person’s fascinating life stood out, so it transformed again to being a piece (mostly) about John.

John’s upbringing was tragic. His mother stole and drank. His father was violent and abusive. From here it took a predictable trajectory through drink, drugs and crime; homes, hostels, borstal and prison. He had a whole load of girlfriends and fathered at least one child. After prison, as he was about to reconnect with his son, now 32, things went into decline again. He began hanging out in a 24-hour gay sauna and this is where the piece opens up to explore the life of the sauna as well as the life of John, as he decides he’s bi-sexual, then gay.

John’s story is told in his own words, and towards the end in his own (recorded) voice. The sauna story is told by its owners. Newson’s trademark movement (you can’t call it dance) pervades and animates the story – you can’t rationalise why, but  it does work and it is compelling. It’s brilliantly executed by nine athletic actor / dancers. At times it’s harrowing, sometimes very explicit, occasionally funny and always enthralling. You learn an awful lot about John, and sauna life, in 75 mins, but in the end his search for love only leads to sex.

Newson’s last two shows were angry and political, this one’s more personal. I found it captivating and fascinating.


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Well, there’s no sitting on the fence here. This latest DV8 piece has a lot to say. London Road set verbatim theatre to music; this one applies it to physical theatre, and gives it an even more documentary feel by the use of video and sound footage. It presents us with our attitudinal evolution, over 25 years, from tolerance through multiculturalism to submission to minority views imported to the west. Now here we are in 2012, in the UK, with 85 Sharia Councils operating a parallel legal system that discriminates against women.

Like London Road, you do wonder why we need music or movement to present such material, yet if you abandon rational reasoning, it does somehow add something. In this case, the cast of ten bounce, gyrate, nod and move in all sorts of ways in every combination as they speak the words of the interviewees (hardly ever seeming out of breath, though occasionally inaudible). It speaks chronologically from sacked Bradford head teacher Ray Honeyford in 1985 to the present day, though Rushdie, Danish cartoons and Dutch films taking in arranged marriage and honour killings en route. It’s presented compellingly and brought all sort of negative emotions to the surface – anger, rage, disgust, contempt….

There is little balance in the show, but as there has been little balance in the public debate, it seems to me perfectly legitimate to ‘talk about this’ as the title suggests. The truth is they are saying what the vast majority of people are thinking but reluctant to say for fear of seeming racist or afraid to say for fear of much worse. I’ve visited 17 muslim countries and have respected every custom and every law on every occasion, yet the opposite happens regularly when I’m at home. Talking about it is, in my book, necessary, welcome and long overdue.

It’s been fascinating to watch DV8 evolve, also over 25 years, from contemporary dance to category-defying groundbreaking work like this. Along the way, people like Nigel Charnock, Russell Maliphant, Wendy Houstoun and choreographer Peter Darling have graced their stages. Lloyd Newson has been there all along and now provides us with a very important work on a national and international stage. You might not enjoy it, you might not like it, but you have to go.

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