Lloyd Newson, Director of DV8 Physical Theatre, presents his most recent work at the West Yorkshire Playhouse from Thursday 3rd – Saturday 5th November 2011.
Can We Talk About This? explores freedom of speech, multiculturalism and Islam. The show mixes contemporary dance with recitals of transcripts spoken by the 11 strong cast along with audio excerpts of interviews and video footage of news broadcasts. This is verbatim theatre in an innovative form. A huge challenge faced by writers staging transcripts in their rawest state is potential boredom, but DV8’s rhythm brings the words to life.
Prior to the performance, I had thought that the dance may distract from the subject matter, but if anything I think it enhanced the powerful message. The scene where a female dancer, dressed only in her underwear, draws on herself in black chalk whilst discussing domestic abuse was particularly poignant.
In the opening section, a lone male dancer twists and contorts in every direction whilst asking: “Who here feels morally superior to the Taliban?” The use of this direct yet seemingly rhetorical question to the audience immediately sets the tone of discomfort and self-analysis regarding ethical viewpoints.
Approximately two thirds of the way through the performance, someone sat in the audience shouted a protest regarding the contents of the show being “Islamophobic” whilst throwing things onto the stage. Given the content and subject matter of the show, I had already been thinking about how controversial it was and the posed threat of uproar, so was unsure as to whether this outcry was staged or genuine. A quick call to the Press Office at the Playhouse confirmed that it was scripted and the work of one of the cast sitting in the audience. This was a powerful component of the work, and believable given the potential danger of the contents being discussed.
The quirky, staccato movements were amusing at times, but choreographed to perfection so that slapstick comedy moments were did not coincide with discussion of particularly dark subject matter.
With subject matter ranging from the 1989 controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, the Danish cartoon controversy in 1995 and the murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh 2004, Can We Talk About This? is by no means a light hearted evening’s entertainment. However, if you are interested in socio-political theatre and current affairs you will be hooked and intrigued, regardless of whether dance is your usual cup of tea.
Can We Talk About This? runs until November 5th. For tickets call the Box Office on 0113 2137700 or go to www.wyp.org.uk