John***** (National Theatre, Lyttelton)

Posted: November 4, 2014 in Theatre

johnConceived and directed by Lloyd Newson for his DV8 Physical Theatre Company, this fusion of spoken word and modern dance creates a truly extraordinary experience. The words are taken verbatim from interviews with real life characters and the dance interprets individual  emotions and the connections between two or more characters. Sometimes smooth flowing, sometimes jerky and edgy, the movement that we see on stage merges seamlessly with the stories that we are being told. Much credit for making this work so effectively must go to Anna Fleischle’s wonderful, adaptable set, which revolves (sometimes constantly) to reveal expansive areas, small rooms, narrow corridors and darkened corners, the flow of the set often heightening the dramatic impact of the movement by the performers. The show runs for 75 minutes without an interval, but it has two very distinct sections: the first is based on interviews with John (performed by Andi Xhuma), telling of his life as part of the social underclass from childhood to early middle age – a life of social housing, state benefits, drug and alcohol abuse, crime, imprisonment, countless women, irresponsible parenthood and many bereavements, but also of success in the form of a University degree gained with honours. For the second section, the primary interviewees are the two owners of a gay sauna who tell, sometimes with considerable humour, of the day-to-day running of their business and of their clients, who include John. Both of the sections work equally well, but they are completely different in tone and content, making it feel for a time that they do not gel with each other; however, when they eventually come together, the emotional impact is shattering. This show is vivid, raw, brutal, life-affirming and totally unique,

Performance date: 3 November 2014

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