The house lights dim and, as the performance begins, a lone figure – contorted beyond the imagination of most but supremely in control of his limbs – asks the audience a direct, and incredibly uncomfortable question. “Do you feel morally superior to the Taliban? Well, do you?”
The house lights go up a little and a few people take this as the cue to show their hands in support, but most are either still reeling from the question or decide that, at this early stage, it may be better not to show their support for such a controversial question. The admission that the performer feels he is superior is greeted by relief from those who have hands held up while the others await his justification.
During the course of the next 90 minutes we find out, in no uncertain terms exactly why he feels so strongly, in yet another of Lloyd Newson’s creations dealing with a subject that most would see as taboo. The 11 members of the troupe present to us many scenes to back up the initial statement including the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, the fiasco over Geert Wilders, the riots following the Muhammad cartoons and the many murders and disappearances among those who are seen to criticise.
Accompanying the narrative is some very rhythmic music and, from the performers, some very regular, and quite jerky, movements. This creates something of a paradox as they deal with the most sensitive of subjects while performing such powerful and dramatic moves with the overall effect being quite extraordinary and unique.
The piece is populated, occasionally, by sound bites, video and the company’s interpretations of real life characters with, at one point, Christina May playing the part of Avaan Hirsi Ali the scriptwriter of the film Submission for which the films producer, Theo van Gogh, was murdered. She talks us through the uproar when they wrote a passage of the Koran on a woman’s body, while covering her own body with dozens of black lines in illustration.
Without doubt the most remarkable section in the piece is whenJoy Constantine as the Labour MP, Ann Cryer, is transported across the stage on the back, arms and legs of a second performer, as she tells of her campaign to bring the issue of forced marriages and honour killings to the forefront.
This is a very powerful piece, with a message that it hammers home quite hard, but is possibly a little too long and wordy towards the end.