The Theatreguide.London Review
We Talk About This?
Lyttelton Theatre Spring 2012
To address the subject of free speech and censorship, the physical theatre company DV8 combines movement and dance with verbatim theatre, the entire text of their work drawn from interviews, speeches and writings of public and private figures.
Though they range widely, the focus of the eighty-minute piece is on two specific areas – the willingness of some extreme Islamic regimes and individuals to kill people for what they say or print, and the willingness of some Western (mainly British) liberals to bend over so far backwards that they censor themselves, unwilling to criticise minorities or even point to crimes for fear of being labelled racist or incurring the wrath of the first group.
The performers either speak the words of their sources while moving or dancing, or move to recordings of the original speakers. Occasionally the effect is deliberately incongruous, as when they bop about merrily to the account of a schoolmaster castigated for suggesting it might be a good idea for his students to learn English, but more often their writhing or balancing suggests the difficulty of holding or absorbing the positions being verbalised.
One man dancing to a montage of voices fudging that it's all a matter of interpretation suggests a Merce Cunningham - John Cage collaboration, while a woman being held aloft in a variety of acrobatic moves hints at the tightrope-walking delicate balance of the speaker she's quoting.
These moments aside, the choreography by director Lloyd Newson and the company does rely a bit too much on angular arm and hand movements that repeatedly threaten to lapse into Madonna-style vogueing.
The power of the piece lies in the fact that the visuals hold our attention and make us listen to words we might otherwise tune out on – not sugar-coating, to be sure, but an effective way of breaking through our defences.
There is no doubt where DV8's loyalty lies – with a liberal society of free discussion and debate – and Can We Talk About This?, which has toured and will continue to tour after this National Theatre run, has an agenda and importance as much social as theatrical.
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