Lyttelton, National, London, March 9-28
Author: Lloyd Newson
Director: Lloyd Newson
Cast: Joy Constantinides, Lee Davern, Kim-Jomi Fischer, Ermira Goro, Hannes Langolf, Samir M'Kirech, Christine May, Seeta Patel, Anwar Russell, Ira Mandela Siobhan
For the past 25 years the choreographer and director Lloyd Newson has used contemporary dance to tackle many of society’s taboos including issues linked to homosexuality. Although this isn’t an expressly gay related piece it touches on the hatred we still suffer from Muslim extremists.
It’s an exploration of how our liberal ideals of free speech come unstuck as we wrestle with whether religious fanatics can be allowed to promote violence against anyone they disapprove of including liberated women, homosexuals and anyone criticising their beliefs.
It takes interviews and extracts from broadcasts cataloguing some of the worst cases of intimidation and violence and Newson’s performers recite or listen to each dancing to them as if they were music.
It’s an odd experience to watch at first as the very jerky movements don’t always obviously reflect the words, which recall incidents like the murders surrounding the Danish publication of a cartoon depicting the prophet Mohamed or a the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, or the horrific “honour” killings some families commit when their daughters don’t marry according to their parents’ wishes. At first I even wondered if the movement was distracting and longed for some stillness to take in the information given but soon the dance becomes integral to power of the testimonies.
It’s all shockingly one sided. But that’s the idea. These performers are making the point that there is no acceptable counter argument or excuse for these brutal acts and the movement stops it all becoming repetitive by constantly re-engaging our attention.
The dancers’ skill is often breathtaking as they almost seem to defy gravity in a series of extraordinary contortions. The most amazing thing of all is they never seem to be out for breath and deliver the text clearly no matter what the choreography demands.
Newson and his company make their point powerfully and with great beauty, it’s unusual and uncomfortable to hear such a one sided argument but I’m full of admiration for their bravery.
VERDICT: **** (Four stars) Movement and text combine to make a powerful statement about extremism.