Speech, text and dance are powerfully combined in physical theatre company DV8’s hard-hitting To Be Straight With You at the National Theatre.
Performed in the Lyttelton theatre, DV8 director Lloyd Newson has created a piece in response to his views towards the continued intolerance to homosexuality across the world. After watching a documentary entitled Gay Muslims, Newson was struck by the fact that out of 200 interviewees, only one would allow their face to be shown, the others too scared for their safety, and this has inevitably inspired the religious angle present in the production. DV8 began its research by interviewing 85 people living in the UK, some who were both religious and gay, others who were members of the clergy or human rights organisations. The result of these interviews is portrayed in the production, with the words spoken taken directly from the mouths of those who chose to share their experiences or views.
Each scene sees a different story told. Some are horrific accounts of abuse received at the hands of parents or strangers as a result of their sexuality. Others are confused, lost voices recounting tales of living double lives in order to be accepted into their community or religious group. As the narration is played, the performers move and dance around the stage, mirroring the stories with physical actions. In one story, a young man skips obsessively, dodging the rope as he tells us of his attempt to run away from his father’s violence after revealing his sexuality. In another, a man struggles to control his arms, as if he might attack himself, as he describes his attempts to repress his true feelings in order that he may stay faithful to his religious beliefs. Dancers move in and out of shadows as they portray their desire for animosity, wanting desperately to be accepted for who they are, but too scared of the abuse and repercussions they would face at the hands of those around them.
The production uses a mix of multi-media and music to bring awareness to the subject matter. A projection of a 3D globe allows one performer to show the audience exactly how the world is split in its views, with the red highlighted countries revealing where homosexuality is illegal and even punishable by death, heavily outweighing the liberal green coloured countries. As loud Jamaican hip-hop plays, the lyrics are projected in huge neon words, creating an uncomfortable feeling as the dancers perform to lyrics of pure hate and ignorance.
To Be Straight With You is a unique production; part dance, part theatre and part political documentary, it aims to both engross the audience with its stylised staging and movement, as well as educate, telling its important and often harrowing stories. Newson has expressed his belief that good theatre should leave you feeling in some way altered as you leave the performance, and he has achieved this aim with a production that cannot fail to provoke a reaction.