Director: Lloyd Newson
Reviewer: Clare Boswell
Currently celebrating 25 years as one of the UK’s leading physical theatre companies, DV8’s latest offering Can We Talk About This? strikes directly at what director Lloyd Newson refers to as Britain’s ‘Liberal Blind Spot’ in respect to Islam. Newson has never been afraid to tackle contentious, uncomfortable issues and similarly to DV8’s previous piece To Be Straight With You, Newson has once again used the Verbatim Theatre style as a vehicle for this politically charged production.
Aesthetically this production is a pleasure to watch and the highly skilled 10-strong cast contort and writhe at break-neck speed to catalogue a number of Islam related incidences including Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses affair, Sharia Law, honour based killings, the murder of Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh, the publication of the Danish ‘Mohammad’ cartoons and forced marriages. There are some stand-out physical performances notably by Joy Constantinides whose vocal delivery is as beautiful as her physicality (this made even more impressive by her appearance at the curtain call with crutches hinting at an injury). Constantinides delivers a stunning piece of contact improvisation inspired work based very simply around the concept of using partner Lee Davern as a chair. Kim-Jomi Fischer is also hugely watchable and his solo piece placed against the stage right wall is visually inspired.
However, despite a physically pleasing 80 minutes of theatre, intellectually there are some rather large holes in this piece. The Verbatim style doesn’t quite marry with the dance element as effectively as it did in To Be Straight With You and the overall detachment between performer and text (although possibly intended by Newson) has the textual effect of a monotonous lecture rather than engaging theatrical dialogue. The text also seems to overly simplify the issues surrounding Islam and while Newson has done well to keep arguments balanced, there is a sense of being bombarded with too much superficial information which begins to err on the tedious- perhaps a dramaturge was required to edit the relevant information and find the light and shade within the numerous stories and interviews used in this piece.
Regardless of its flaws, one only had to overhear the numerous conversations in the theatre bar after the production to conclude that whether audiences felt the piece was hard hitting and brave work or an infuriatingly puerile look at an important issue, people were certainly talking about it and in this sense, Can We Talk About This? has certainly lived up to its name.