centrepiece : No pain, no gain

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The Independent Culture
Nigel Charnock (right) is wet. For someone usually described as a virtuoso in daring physical performance this may come as something of a surprise. Nonetheless, this is a journalistic first: I'm at the end of a phone and he's in the bath.

A large percentage of his audience, male and female, would like to be in there with him. Not that they would get to see anything they hadn't seen before. He is no stranger to onstage nudity. Given that his subject matter tends to be sex, sex and sex, this is hardly surprising, but anyone expecting tawdry tales or porn masquerading as art should stay away.

People have a hard time describing him. He can't be a dancer because he writes. And acts. Oh yes, he sings too. "People find it confusing but I don't. It's a question of choosing the right form of expression whether it's opening my mouth or using my body. Sometimes I think I'm failing because I don't use enough movement." This is probably the last criticism to level at someone who has made a career out of hurling himself from the scenery, throwing himself to the floor and specialising in physical (self)abuse.

Together with Lloyd Newson he founded DV8 Physical Theatre. "We were sick of dance. It all seemed so nonsensical and bewildering. Too much technique, not enough performance. I still feel that to an extent. I can appreciate the aesthetics of course, but the movement has to mean something." You can see that idea being played out in all his work which explores realms of relationships and pain that most companies don't even recognise.

A year at the London Contemporary Dance School after training as an actor taught him discipline and control, essentials for a performer who creates work to please himself, rather than second-guessing his audience. "It's like buying Christmas presents. You can never get it right. You're much better off choosing something you like yourself."

`Hell Bent' opens at the Drill Hall on Tuesday (071-637 8270) See listings, p11