John - Reviews

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Wednesday, 5 November, 2014
Review by: 
Mark Shenton

There are dance companies and there are theatre companies. And then there's DV8: while others test and blur the boundaries between narrative theatre and using movement as well as words to tell stories, DV8's founder Lloyd Newson sets up confrontational juxtapositions between them that make each illuminate the other fiercely yet seamlessly. Add in a set here, by Anna Fleischle, located on a turntable that revolves regularly to reveal new perspectives, and stunning lights (Richard Godin) and sound (Gareth Fry), and you have a piece of total theatre that is also equal parts biography, documentary and movement.

The story it has to tell is, in part, even more extraordinary. Based on interviews with over 50 men that Newson and his researchers spoke to about love and sex, they uncovered one man's life story that they choose to re-tell here now. The eponymous John is followed as he tells us, in his own words, of his abusive childhood and failed adult relationships through to his drug, alcohol and food addictions that variously led to jail sentences and homelessness. But there's finally a hope of redemption, as he finds a degree of self-acceptance of his own suppressed sexuality.

So far, so compelling, and the extraordinary integration of theatrical forms that the show achieves is quietly stunning. But then the show veers off into a less surprising documentary of the behind-the-scenes life of a gay sauna and its two proprietors. This voyeuristic portrait of the dance of sex and desire that plays out there has few fresh insights, unless you count the graphic descriptions of bodily waste that seems to play a prominent part in the clean-up of the place.

For those who've never been to such an establishment, it may be more interesting than it was to me. But this is nevertheless a gripping, beautifully executed evening.


s confident production occasionally lacks forward momentum. Theres no handbook for what youre trying to do, says Rays Dad to the boys, but it remains unclear precisely what this might be, what anger or passion fuels them."
Fiona Mountford for the Evening Standard

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