hope. ideas

Review - Can We Talk About This? DV8 Physical Theatre @ Royal National Theatre

I have had a massive company-crush on DV8 for well over a year, since a friend first shared a clip of this show in its Australian incarnation. As a result, I went into this show with huge expectations and the desire to be tested intellectually and visually. The set as we first see it is a large, open space prepared for intricate physical movement with parquet floors. There is a wall close to the downstage side with mirrors on it, and doors lining the sides of the room on stage. Pulling no punches, creator Lloyd Newson begins by cracking in on the audience, largely visible in the mirror on stage, about moral superiority to the Taliban. This direct address sets the tone for the ensuing 120 minutes of questioning our stance (or lack thereof) when it comes to Western cultures interacting with other cultures, most specifically muslims. The show challenges us to look at our own beliefs, and to question why we have come to a place of moral relativism, where acts we view as completely heinous are okay for others, because of their "culture".

At its root is a deep belief in the univerality of human existence; that there are certain basic rights that all people deserve to have access to, and that for someone to remove those rights in the name of religion or culture is not acceptable. The intellectual debate is fiery, and is underscored by intense physical choreography which echoes in space and movement the essence of what a character is saying or doing, to great effect. When a politician is dancing around an issue, the actor is literally fancy-footing around the stage. When a woman is preaching from her high horse, she speaks the entire monologue from atop another actor, who moves her around as if he was her chair.

Oddly, despite the desecriptions I have stated above, it does not feel like it gives us an answer...rather it asks A LOT of questions and at least in my case, sparked some serious discussion about how we should handle these things and what is acceptable.

Overall, the effect was visually stunning, underscoring intense intellectual debate, and left me thinking. Isn't that what we want theatre to do?


Apparently didn't blog at all for the latter half of last week. It included continuations in Playwriting and Laban approaches classes, which have been great.

Also did some initial rehearsals and voiceover recordings for this week's scene study, another scene from Genet's The Blacks. In this, we learned that apparently I can do a Nigerian accent. Still can't do German, though!

Outside all this, I've been reading Genet's book 'Prisoner of Love' which was (I believe) his last publication. It reflects on his encounters with Palestinian rebels and the oh-so-confusing politics of Northern Africa in the 1970s (Heck, even now). What I am really finding fascinating is his ability to draw historical parralels to the French Revolution, The Black Panthers, The Nazi regime, and yet nothing seems put on. The beautifully poetic lens he applies to the people and space of the conflict is wonderful; at once it makes you feel completely aligned with the individuals, and yet completely separated from them. Some enjoyable moments for me...

"The fame of heroes owes little to the extent of their conquests and all to the success of the tributes paid to them. . . all the images of wars have been created after the battles themselves thanks to looting or the energy of artists, and left standing thanks to oversight on the part of rain or rebellion. But what survives is the evidence, rarely accurate but always stirring, vouchsafed to the future by the victors." - (p7-8)

"Everything happens in the dark. At the point of death, however insubstantial those words and however unimportant the event itself, the condemned man still wants to determine for himself the meaning of his life, lived in a darkness he tried not to lighten but to make more black." (p54)

"What was to become of you after the storms of fire and steel? What were you to do? Burn, shriek, turn into a brand, blacken, turn to ashes, let yourself be slowly covered first with dust and then with earth, seeds, moss, leaving behind nothing but your jawbone and teeth, and finally becoming a little funeral mound with flowers growing on it and nothing inside." (p102)

"When someone leaned out of the window of a departing train it used to be the custom, apparently, for his friends to run alongside waving their handkerchiefs. But the custom has probably died out, just as the piece of cloth has been replaced by a neat square of paper. You used to know the train would take good care of the traveller, and you expected him to send you a postcard. If someone set out on a journey on foot, his friends would wait until he or even his shadow disappeared. But even in his absence he was still with them, and if they heard he'd died or was in danger or trouble, they felt for him." (p240)

"When a man invents an image that he wants to propagate, that he may even want to substitute for himself, he starts by experimenting, making mistakes, sketching out freaks and other non-viable monsters that he has to tear up unless they disintegrate of their own accord. But the operative image is the one that's left after the person dies or withdraws from the world, as in the case of Socrates, Christ, Saladin, Saint-Just and so on. They succeeded in projecting an image around themselves and into the future. It doesn't matter whether or not the image corresponds to what they were really like: they managed to wrest a powerful image from that reality." (p302)

Photo: Portrait of Jean Genet by Anthony Weir

Hell is Other People

I have been thinking a lot lately about what tragedy is in our modern times. We hear that word pushed and pulled around regularly; it is almost impossible to make it through an hour's newscast without hearing that word bandied about. But are the certainly unfortunate, miserable experiences of day to day life actually tragic, or just a set of seriously crappy circumstances imposed by other people? I wholeheartedly believe that major natural disasters (for example) are really terrible occurrences...but consider that the majority of the "human impact" and death isn't caused by the disaster itself, but by the situation some people have been put in as a result of the actions of others. And if that is the case, then really, the situation was able to be remedied or avoided. Albeit not an easy avoidance, but a possible option exists nonetheless.

This is on a major scale...but even on the micro, personal level we inflict pain and suffering on others daily. People trust others because you need to in order to survive, and yet these people we trust turn and change, and hurt us irreperably time and time again. Yet we need to have hope, and learn to trust again...otherwise the only remaining state is one of despair. Hope that true connection, true care for another being is possible and will happen....and willingness to risk being hurt again for the chance of a true connection occurring.

With this understanding, do we not need theatrical tragedy even more than before, to help us manage and clarify our existence? Theatrical models of tragedy show us the inevitability of events, our helplessness to impact our surroundings at time, however rather than leaving us bleak and despairing, they forge a connection for us and reinforce that hope which is so vital to our existence.