Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Review: ‘Can We Talk About This?’, DV8, National Theatre, 9th March 2012

Punching in with Martin Amis’ weighty question, ‘do you feel morally superior to the Taliban?’ is DV8’s latest production, ‘Can We Talk About This?’. With only around 10-20% of the audience raising their hands in response, the titular question is thrust into debate from the outset in a production that uses real voices and factual evidence to confront the issues of censorship, freedom of speech and oppression within extremist Islam.
A sense of danger is played on throughout, yet this is frustratingly hampered by the choice of the 900 seat Lyttleton. The shock factor of the (planted) audience member who hurls fecal matter at the stage condemning the performance as ‘Islamophobic shit’ is a device that may have audiences releasing their bowels in the Cottesloe, yet it is commuted to the league of minor disturbance in this bigger venue.
Undoubtedly one of the most memorable moments of the performance is Joy Constantinides’ speech, delivered whilst she sits on her co-performer who transports her in all manner of angles using his body, allthewhile never unsettling her cup of tea, fantastic stuff. Yet, asked to recall what Constantinides’ was talking about, I draw a blank, (my research reveals it was Shirley Williams’ parliamentary speech on forced marriages and honour killings, pretty important stuff). Whilst performances are strong, it feels as though at times the physicality eclipses the message. With many audience members leaving the theatre ‘oohing’ at the physical prowess of the performers rather than musing on the subject matter, it feels as though this production is a classic case of style over substance.

Political agenda aside, as a piece of theatre ‘Can We Talk About this’ was dynamic and entertaining, a visually stimulating and tightly choreographed performance, and irrespective of any nitpicking one can provide on the end product, it is encouraging to see companies confronting issues which spark controversy and debate. The coherency of the message is blurred through the medium, but credit is due for tackling subject matter that others afraid to ‘talk about’. 3/5.