DV8 Physical Theatre love to shock. Some would call it pretentious of them, I believe just honest; it’s just for show after all.
The brains behind DV8 Physical Theatre is Lloyd Newson who has always been very passionate about creating performances that relates to him, his personal politics and how he sees the world around him. This approach to devising his pieces results in many of his productions being less sugar-coated and aesthetically pleasing and in fact frank and hard hitting. His 2005 production Just For Show is no exception.
Lloyd Newson, uses the quote from philosopher Otto Rank as a basis to produce his show, “To be able to live, one needs illusions;” and illusions he did create. In this very post modern performance, Newson, incorporates a range of art forms, from Chinese magic tricks from to contemporary dance and classical ballet, from contortionism to cleverly written witty text and 20th century songs, and various high tech lighting systems. Newson creates a raw satire on the world we live in. DV8 explores the importance of appearance and illusions in our lives. “… a show about showing and showing off, where looking good has become more essential than being good, where ‘faking it’ has become synonymous with making it…” The powerful opening offered a spectacular laser show, scrolling the show title. The dynamic visual display was timed in accordance to modern techno music and subtly accompanied by a highly technical and absurd dance routine, performed by too androgynous dancers suited in black amongst the projection of words.
With Lloyd Newson’s extensive reading in psychology, which he studied before he became a dancer; Just for Show has some of the most text of any DV8 piece to date – but this time, Newson wanted his psychoanalytic projections to take a literal form. He stretches its potential to create images which play with the mind, making you see things that aren’t there, for example dancers interacting in a duet with a hologram created by lasers. The confusion this creates for the audience develops his original questions on the type of superficial society we live in. “There’s a huge pressure at the moment. Extreme makeover shows have become a common TV diet, and with the advent of antidepressants in the early 1990s comes the pressure to look good and feel good. One of the things I’m interested in is: if someone’s got an erection and they’re on Viagra, is that a real erection? If someone’s happy and they’re on Prozac, are they really happy? So all these things that are unnatural in the sense that they are not what we were initially given, are they OK?” (Lloyd Newson 2005) Newson has become aware of societies desperate need to escape anything painful, uncomfortable or challenging.
A sequence of direct address to the audience featured frank revelations about their place in the show. One dancer is described as too fat to have a proper part in the show, a skinny Australian woman is called a bulimic drama queen, one man is caught having an affair, while another man is revealed as HIV positive. Initially you laugh along with the funny confrontational truths you are faced with, as the performance so far has developed the stories. But the last one makes you very uncomfortable. Lloyd Newson has the ability to be able to cross the barrier of what is stage acting and truth. Did the man really have HIV, or were they saying it for dramatic effect? This ambiguity of people and presenting a different front to what is on the inside is explored thoroughly.
The popularity of new age diets and exercise routines are developed in a monologue, full of physical contortions, yoga and humorous hand gestures. The constant use of subtle comedy mixed with a deeper serious issue made the piece very successful and aurally aesthetic (if not always visually!)as you were interested and involved with what was happening on stage, yet had a more meaningful approach when thinking back later on.
My favourite aspect was the ambiguity of words, their meaning and effect in different contexts, the variety of colloquial contradictions. The word right was thrown about in one monologue, to describe directions, intentions, corrections and reassurances.
The high skill and variety of performers kept the audience involved deeply. For every member of the audience there was someone or something you could relate to. The show simply highlighted the corruption of media and pressures we are under from society on a day to day basis yet we choose not to fully embrace as it is so demoralising. Lloyd Newson and DV8 have tackled this issue with great passion, subtly and awareness.