Dance: Snog on the Tyne is just fine

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
HALF-WAY THROUGH Lloyd Newson's new production for his DV8 Physical Theatre you can see a reason for the title, The Happiest Day of My Life, when a bride floats away in her wedding dress, borne aloft apparently by one of the balloons that have surrounded her during the vestigial and chaotic ceremony.

Not much sign of happiness for any of the six characters before that, however. Presumably the guy masturbating in the loo is enjoying himself, but the girl impatient for a spot of fornication only finds her fold- away bed folded away with her in it. There is a party without much action, abruptly ended by the host; there are girls desperately looking for a taxi in the rain; two chaps make vague passes at each other while discussing football. Oh, I almost forgot the woman who tries to get the audience to join her in singing "Love is a Many Splendoured Thing", or to take photographs of her which she then always spoils by moving at the crucial moment.

If, up to the interval, you want a plot in any of this, you have to invent it yourself from the separate episodes. Which is not helped much by having a lot of the action in semi-darkness, or tucked away in recesses.

It's all so busy that there is no time to be bored, even if the thought occurs every now and again that Lloyd Newson has been busy in all the advance publicity, including his talks on Radio 3, suggesting that he intended to develop some kind of theme about the nature of love. Whatever happened to this?

In part two that question gets answered when a central relationship develops. It is shown partly when a couple dance embracing each other, their wrists handcuffed together with rope. That is very affecting, but she wants to be told "I love you", and he proves physically unable to speak the words, though he can put them jokingly into song. So they each find themselves snogging somebody else. And at the end (did you guess?) everyone is left miserably alone.

This second half is not only more coherent, but also more spectacular, since the stage has been reduced to a small island surrounded by a tank of water, into which all the characters plunge at different times. This is an old trick of Newson's but still an effective one, and comical too, as even the television set and the sofa are submerged.

Prize for the most unhelpful pre-performance announcement of the year goes to the statement that "Due to an injury, a dancer has been replaced". Yet the cast perform with a cohesion that must have left spectators wondering who the replacement might be. The hotchpotch score works well enough, and Bob Bailey's setting proves capable of inexhaustible variation. But did Newson really need to spin out his theme with so much padding?

A version of this review appeared in later editions of Friday's paper