conceived by Lloyd Newson.
Lyttelton Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX I rep to 13 January 2015.
Audio-described: 19 Dec 20 Dec 20 3pm (+ Touch Tour).
Captioned 12 Jan 8pm.
Runs: 1hr 20min No interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 4 November.
Emotion in motion in a provocative and beautiful piece.
If you haven’t been paying attention, Lloyd Newson’s DV8 has morphed into one of the most influential modern dance companies. I saw him many years ago, probably in his nascent form when the style was silent, aggressive, confrontational, with a decidedly gay perspective.
Since then, he’s added text, confronted taboo subjects such as Islamic fundamentalism, homosexuality and religion and turned DV8 into a dance/verbatim company infused with his particular brand of no-holds-barred directness. And beauty.
John, his latest, manifests all these qualities in a piece based on one particular story – John, who appeared in Newson’s rehearsal room when researching and interviewing gay men about the connection between love and sex and those who frequent gay saunas.
John’s childhood and upbringing is reflected in Anna Fleischle’s revolving doors so eloquently summarising the revolving door state of John’s existence: familial turmoil, domestic violence, alcohol, drugs. In and out of prison, homeless, John eventually finds his way to a gay sauna to find possible companionship.
A narrative that might be familiar, Newson’s distinctive style of spoken text – not always clear – and the accompanying choreographed movement make it something wholly unique. Each phrase, emotion, situation seems carved out through the human frame, particularly that of Hannes Langolf (John). His corkscrewing body seems as if made of rubber, never still, wrapping itself around walls, doors, other human beings – even bottles. A never-ending river of motion.
At one point, John is had up before the Justice. John and the Judge (Ian Garside) perform tiny shuffling foot moments, like geishas, which have the effect of watching criminal and justice system hypnotically dancing around and beside each other. Fabulous.
Another time, repetitive pelvic thrusts accompany a gay sauna customer recounting his lust for repeated unprotected sex.
If the gay sauna naked bodies are the show’s most eye-catching if predictable element, Newson’s message of individual responsibility is its most surprising in an evening that otherwise explodes with emotion and ends on a dying fall; John’s search for a person – maybe male – to share love. And the steady breathing of his sleeping frame, rising and falling.
Performers: Taylor Benjamin, Lee Boggess, Gabriel Castillo, Ian Garside, Ermira Goro, Garth Johnson, Hannes Langolf, Vivien Wood, Andi Xhuma.
Director: Lloyd Newson.
Creative Associate: Hannes Langolf.
Designer/Costume: Anna Fleischle.
Lighting: Richard Godin.
Sound: Gareth Fry.
Music Supervisor: Gabriel Castillo.
Choreographer: Lloyd Newson with the performers.
Voiceover artist: Lee Davern.
Associate sound: Ella Wahlström.
Vocal coach: Melanie Pappenheim.
Acting Workshops: Juliet Knight.
Dialect coach: Daniele Lydon.
Researchers: Antonio Harris, Tim Owen Jones, Ankur Bahl, Kenny D’Cruz.
Interview editing: Lloyd Newson, Hannes Langolf.
Preliminary sound editing: Tamsin Barber, Chester Hayes, Luke Johnson, Rachel Phillips, Hedley Roach.
First performance of John in the Lyttelton Theatre London 30 October 2014.
Co-produced by National Theatre of Great Britain, Biennale de la Danse de Lyon, Théâtre de la Ville and Festival d’Automne Paris, Dansens Hus Stockholm, Dansens Hus Oslo and DV8 Physical Theatre
Residency at the Centre for the History of the Emotions, Queen Mary University of London, funded by the Leverhulme Trust.
National Theatre Live cinema broadcast of John 9 December 2014 (see www.ntlive.com).
John is part of the Travelex season.