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Can We Talk About This?, National Theatre

Conceived and directed by Lloyd Newson
Co-Production between the National Theatre and DV8 Theatre

Pros: DV8’s stylised physical theatre.

Cons: The political agenda is uncomfortable.
Our Verdict: DV8 is a brilliant physical theatre troupe, it’s a shame about the topic they’ve picked to perform which only detracts from what they do best.
Courtesy of Gergoe Nagy for the Guardian
Through verbatim speeches and stylised movement, DV8 are back on stage at the National Theatre, tackling the potentially flammable issue of Islam’s relationship with multiculturalism. The hope  is to force politically correct liberals of the UK to stand up for the ‘universal right’ that Muslim extremists deny. It aims to encourage people to not sit idly by believing that to talk about Islam at all is racist, Islamophobic and politically incorrect, as extremists utilize this silence for their own means and in the process tar all Muslims with the same brush.
It’s a fair and sensitive topic, something that perhaps does need to be addressed, but does it really need to be done so ferociously? Lloyd Newson, the show’s creator, is quoted in a Guardian article as saying that he believes the show covers all points of view on multiculturalism, Islam and free speech in Britain. Yet it doesn’t, because we hear nothing about the everyday Muslim. 
If you can ignore the political purpose of this piece then the physical performances were impressive, the actor’s movements were fluid and double jointed. They worked together, doing what they do best. Each scene is obviously different from the others, ranging from almost comical jigs to smooth ballet-like dances. I was impressed with their stamina, their ability to keep their voices smooth while performing outstanding movements. I went to see this, not the political monologue that I left with.
DV8 have definitely done something special here in their attempt to outline the political agendas of various members of Britain’s complex society. I’m not sure whether they achieved what they were attempting and I’m not sure if I liked it but it’s not a performance piece to disregard. It was one of the most uncomfortable 80 minutes of my life but that doesn’t mean it isn’t necessarily an important issue in our 21st Century society. Choosing to present this message through DV8 was the wrong decision, perhaps better suited to theatre whose main attraction is not physical theatre. 
But…Can We Talk About This? No, I don’t think we can. Not yet, not now. Maybe we’ll never be able to, not like this.
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Can We Talk About This? runs at the National Theatre until 28th March 2012.

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