Reviews

 

SARA KEATINGreviews To be straight with you

To Be Straight With You

O’Reilly Theatre

DV8 turn the idea of verbatim theatre upside-down with their physical extrapolation of real-life testimony in the profoundly political and personally devastating dance-theatre piece To Be Straight With You.

The text is drawn from 85 interviews with people whose lives have been affected by the endemic homophobia in a variety of fundamentalist religions. The classroom setting complements the educational aspect, as the audience is assailed with the shocking statistics of human-rights abuses throughout the world: homosexuality is considered a crime in 80 countries; punishable by execution in five. However, director Lloyd Newson never lets the lesson become didactic, using sophisticated technological devices to enliven the facts. Here is the most beautiful geography class you’ll ever experience; a choreographed dance across the globe: here, a human body becomes a living cartoon strip, manipulating the frame of his own life as he strives to free himself from a homophobic Christian tradition; here a teenage boy skips, impossibly optimistic, through the detritus of the family that he leaves behind in order to embrace his sexual identity.

Kit Monkman and Tom Wexler’s seamless integration of their video design is complemented by Beky Stoddart’s diffusive lights, which shades the faces of the nine lithe performers, alluding to the anonymity of most of the voices that we hear.

But there are some familiar speakers too: human rights campaigner Peter Tacthell, who has put himself at the forefront of the gay rights debate in Britain; and Iris Robinson, the DUP parliament member who found infamy when she denounced homosexuality as “an abomination” that should be treated with psychiatric care.

Most importantly, DV8’s defiant grammar of dance and physical movement provides a liberating language of corporeal joy where societies all over the world deny freedom of physical expression to homosexual love. In one scene, a Pakistani man must mask his love for his partner with a sham marriage, but also his love for music and dancing; together, without touching, the couple perform a sensuous synchronised Bollywood spin.

Images of physical freedom are juxtaposed with confinement and restraint, and ideologies of race, sexuality and religion are held in tension with each other, ensuring that To Be Straight With You never becomes polemical; indeed, it raises as many questions and complications as it illuminates.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the unresolved gender politics of the piece itself, which, for the most part, leaves the lesbian narrative at the sidelines: to be straight with you, there is the issue of patriarchy as well as sexual politics to be challenged. Until Sunday. As part of the Dublin Theatre Festival

SARA KEATING