To Be Straight With You
DV8 Physical Theatre @ Dunstan Playhouse
8:30pm, Sat 15 Mar 2008
It’s funny who you wind up talking to at these shows; I tend to be a chatty fella, swapping stories about shows with other patrons whenever I get the chance (that’s called word of mouth, people). And this evening I wound up sitting next to Albert Bensimon, who was bloody entertaining to talk to. There’s no real point mentioning that – no gossip or anything to report – but it was pretty neat when he spotted me at Dharma at Big Sur the following night, proferring a greeting and a wave. I waved back, rumbled out a “howyadoin?”, then noticed the raised eyebrow of my neighbour. “Oh, that’s Albert,” I said. “We’re like this.”
I walked into this piece expecting a bit of experimental dance – something along the lines of Nemesis, maybe – but DV8 delivered much, much more. A quick flick through the large, tabloid-sized pamphlet that acted as a programme indicated that this was going to be a heavily themed piece, focussing on the issues of human rights (in general) and sexual persecution (in particular).
And as for dance? Well, that depends what you consider “dance”. To Be Straight With You is half contemporary dance, half spoken word, half theatre, half multimedia light-show. This latter aspect, in particular, was astonishing: using images projected from behind the audience, DV8 created some gob-smacking effects, from simple writing on a blackboard to a beautiful spinning globe, all convincingly “handled” by the actors / dancers onstage.
Apparently derived from oodles of vox pop interviews in the UK, To Be Straight With You doesn’t so much explore as flat-out opine on the issue of sexual persecution. Seemingly taking a statement from Archbishop Desmond Tutu as its centrepiece…
The persecution of people because of their sexual orientation is every bit as unjust as that crime against humanity, apartheid. We must be allowed to love with honour.
…director (and DV8 Artistic bigwig) Lloyd Newson presents a series of scenes, snippets of dance, and slideshows that depict many aspects of this issue.
Now – truth be told, I was completely unable to understand some of the thick regional accents used in earlier scenes. Tales of torment and abuse – in South Africa, by English Jamaicans, and others – were nigh-on unintelligible to me; but the physicality of the acting – and the dance, the wonderfully refined movements! – made the message clear. And the production moves on a fast clip, zipping around the world, showing different reactions to sexuality by different races and cultures. Surprisingly, it lingers for awhile on the topic of gay muslims and the fundamentalist muslim responses to homosexuality; this lends a certain political weight to the performance.
But To Be Straight With You never slows down, never becomes dull. DV8 presented a visually and sonically (oh! the soundtrack! stunning) spectacular show which, despite its rather monotonic themes, was completely engaging.