Can We Talk About This, Lyttelton

 

Paul Taylor
Tuesday 13 March 2012 13:07
Comments

Can We Talk About This? -- a broadside by Lloyd Newson and his dance company DV8 against the allegedly soft and supine liberal propritation of Islamic fundamentalism and its threat to (amongst other things) free speech -- should be subtitled Can We Dance About This?

I'm afraid that, after watching this determinedly provocative, technically fascinating, expertly executed and crudely bludgeoning show, I was left with these answers.  To the first question: no, because the piece does not want to start a dialogue.  Set in a generic community centre-cum-gym and moving chronologically from the case of Ray Honeyford, the hounded Bradford head teacher who, in 1984, sparked a furious controversy with an article when he published an article questioning multiculturalism, the evening is a tendentiously constructed tract posing as a dance-enhanced polemic. 

To the second question: the answer would be: not if you want clarity of argument as opposed to a kind of running terpischorean commentary that compounds the built-in bias.  The dancing is sometimes a joy to watch as the populous cast bob about the stage in what looks like a cross between an impersonation of a metronome and a prize exhibit from one of the Ministry of Silly Walks.  Or when, at some absurdly optimistic bit of liberal planning, they nound around jumping  for fey joy like a multitude of ("hello sky! hello sea") Fotherington-Thomases.  But when it's not looking abitrary, there's far too much glaring manipulativeness. It's true that her televised dispute with Christopher Hitchens about Salman Rushdie's knighthood was not Shirley Williams's finest hour.  All the same, in its invidious staging here, William seems to taking part in a variant of Spitting Image,while Hitchens, who does some expressive angular things with a symbolic book, is granted the dignity of being in a modern dance.

There are fantastically difficult and important issues at stake here.  They are dealt with in an undeniably powerful but also infuriatingly facile manner.  By chance, the night before, I had seen the recent Iranian movie, A SEPARATION, an instant classic of the excruciating and intractable tangles you get into when devout and secular Muslims clash over an incident that flushes all their prejudices to the fore.  There were moments as I watched the DV8 piece, which feels a lot longer than its eighty minutes, when I fancied that this is what hell would be like: forced to be an eternal witness of a show that disqualifies itself as an adequate examination of considerations you ache to see clarified.  There is a protest at one point by the most glaring "plant" you have ever encountered in a theatre.  Enough said.

To 28 March 2012 , 020 7452 3000; boxoffice@nationaltheatre.org,uk
 

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in