Sunday, October 26, 2008

DV8 - To be Straight with You

I continued my adventurous Friday nights by going out to the theater at Creteil (there may be an accent in there somewhere), and another wonderful experience it was.

Lloyd Newson's To be Straight with You was the best of the performances I have seen so far at the Festival d'Automne. A series of vignettes in which the stories of 25 characters are performed over the course of 90 mins. All of them are gay - with a handful of lesbians - and all of them muslim, from the Indian sub-continent, North Africa and the middle east. 

What struck me about the piece as a whole was its success on all levels. Not only were the stories moving and frightening and daring and cowardly, but the dancing, the narratives and the music worked to draw me in to the stories emotionally . I have often struggled with the intention of dance to state the direct correspondence between a movement and a particular emotion or array of emotions. But I was so impressed here by the logical and legible expression of sexuality. Gay men and women in London with immigrant backgrounds express their sexuality in many different ways, and the individual dancers of DV8 managed to echo whatever the given relationship to their sexuality: frustration, celebration, repression, fear, and so on, were so perfectly captured by the movements and debilitations of the body. 

The use of new media and fancy technology on stage is unquestionably de jour in the dance and theater world. I saw a performance by Simon McBurney's Complicit√© last month which used all the TV screens, digital imaging, creation of sets through lighting and different times, spaces and realities through the use of different media - much in the vein of Piscator. But the difference between McBurney's *A Disappearing Number* and DV8's *To Be Straight with You* was a difference in politics. *A Disappearing Number* was a love story, well told, but not much more. DV8, however,  used all its presentational and representational resources - projected text, lighting, speech, music, scrims and sets to drive home an urgent political question: gay men and women may in theory, by the law, be able to express their sexuality in public in England, but there's a long way to go, a lot of fighting to do before equality can be claimed.

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