1 of 2
Photographer Oliver Manzi
DV8 - Can We Talk About This?
DV8 - Can We Talk About This? Performers Hannes Langolf and Ira Mandela Siobhan
2 of 2
Photo by Oliver Manzi
DV8 - Can We Talk About This?
DV8 - Can We Talk About This? Performers Kim Jomi Fischer and Hannes Langolf
Are you morally superior to the Taliban? Expect to be asked this question if you see DV8’s confrontational new show about liberal confusion and religious intolerance, Can We Talk About This?, at the Mercat de les Flors this month.
DV8 are Britain’s finest physical theatre company. Call it contemporary dance if you must, but if DV8 did pirouettes they’d do them on barbed wire. The group have a reputation for controversy, bravery, exquisite choreography and innovation. They are political, and make no apologies for it. Over the years they’ve tackled everything from disability (watch The Cost of Living on YouTube in wonder) to homophobia, religion, love, ballet and even British pubs.
This time it’s lily-livered liberals—the company’s core audience—who take a beating. Can We Talk About This? puts freedom of speech and state-sponsored multiculturalism under the spotlight, and asks, why is it often OK to criticise aspects of Christianity or Judaism but not Islam? When did we become so darn diplomatic?
According to Lloyd Newsom, DV8’s founder and chief choreographer, it’s not about being anti-Islam. But when a society feels it can’t criticise aspects of a religion that denies women equal rights, something is very wrong. Respecting someone’s rights is not necessarily the same as respecting their ideas, he argues.
Sharia law, Salman Rushdie’s book burnings, the Bradford riots and the murder of Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh are all tackled here with enactments of interviews (here in English with Catalan subtitles) and real news footage.
At the core of this piece is the relationship between words and movement. For Newsom, people aren’t just talking heads, they move too. Think of angry Barça players protesting a penalty and you’ll see his point. Here, a dancer slithers and squirms along a wall under the weight of his own political correctness, another illustrates her determination to escape a forced marriage through undulating hand and hip movements alone, and bodies twist as speakers verbally tie themselves in knots. DV8 understand how people move, and express it joyfully and unashamedly.
DV8 grew out of a distaste for the stylised rules of ballet and modern dance. Since the launch of the company in 1986, Newsom has gained a fearsome reputation for putting his dancers through gruelling workshops that leave them bloody and bruised, and with the rule book ripped to shreds on the studio floor. It is real life that Newsom wants to choreograph, not the prissy, pristine beauty so often seen at the ballet.
In interviews, Newsom has hit out at the world of dance for choreographing by numbers and hanging a loose idea on to some pretty moves and creating a show in a matter of weeks. In contrast, Can We Talk About This? is the result of months of work and interviews with over 50 people plus archive material.
Some critics may have sniped that they felt as if they were being preached at during this show but never will you have a political message stuffed down your throat more beautifully. Ultimately, in this messed-up world of ours, Can We Talk About This? is a plea for tolerance and a fine piece of physical theatre.
Can We Talk About This? Mercat de les Flors, May 3rd-5th; In English with Catalan subtitles. €14 to €28 www.mercatflors.cat