Not a lot of happiness in dance of deviant lovers

First Night Dance DV8 Newcastle Playhouse
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HALFWAY 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 were part of the vestigial and chaotic ceremony.

Not much sign of happiness for the six characters before that. Presumably the guy masturbating in the loo is enjoying himself, but the girl impatient for a spot of fornication only finds her foldaway bed folded away with her in it. There is a party without much action, girls looking for a taxi in the rain, two chaps making 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 Splendid Thing".

If, up to the interval, you want a plot, you have to invent it yourself. Which is not helped much by having a lot of the action in semi-darkness. But it's all so busy there is no time to be bored, even if Lloyd Newson has suggested in advance publicity that he intended to develop some theme about the nature of love. What happened to this?

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

The second half is more spectacular, as the stage has been reduced to a small island surrounded by a tank of water.It works strikingly; comically too, when even the television and sofa are submerged.

The cast perform with cohesion, the hotchpotch score works, and Bob Bailey's setting is capable of inexhaustible variation. But did Newson need to spin out his theme with so much padding?

John Percival

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