‘Straight with You’ explores sexuality, religion, intolerance
By Jess Krug
Published on Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Energy, passion, power -- DV8 Physical Theatre brings all of these to the Hopkins Center this Friday and Saturday with the North American premiere of "To Be Straight with You."
Conceived and directed by Lloyd Newson and funded by the Arts Council of Great Britain, the production explores the implications and roots of intolerance surrounding religion and sexuality.
The internationally known group has produced 15 performances and five award-winning films since its formation in 1986, pushing the boundaries of political expression with its unique mixture of message and emotion. Fusing dance and spoken word, "To Be Straight with You" probes deeply into a discussion too often obstructed by hate and fear.
Newson conceived the production after his personal experiences. In the early '90s he witnessed attacks at a gay pride march in an Afro-Caribbean neighborhood in a London suburb. The fact that one marginalized minority group could act with such hatred against another astonished him.
Newson was similarly stunned in 2006 when only one of 200 of those interviewed for "Gay Muslims," a documentary aired by Channel 4 Television in London, agreed to have his identity disclosed.
Finally, a threatened split in the Anglican Church over the invitation of bishops who tolerated homosexuality to the Lambeth Conference, hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, caught Newson's attention.
Newson notes the importance of visibility in his production. Though he calls racism and homophobia "one and the same," Newson points out that, aside from traditional stereotypes, no outward signs indicate homosexuality the way physical features show racial differences.
The most unique feature of the performance is its authenticity and source material. In order to make the piece as honest as possible, Newson interviewed 85 people on the streets of London, before editing and transcribing their accounts over the course of 20 months.
"To Be Straight with You" incorporates excerpts from those accounts that demonstrate how people overcome differences and live together peacefully.
"The intention is to make work that is ultimately about compassion amongst people," said Newson.
Margaret Lawrence, director of programming at the Hopkins Center, has been a fan of DV8 for 20 years and has been trying to bring the group to the Hop for several years.
DV8's performance at Dartmouth not only kicks off their North American tour, but it represents one of only three stops before returning for a long run at the National Theatre in London.
Lawrence praised the technology, music, and physically brilliant performances DV8 brings to the stage. The trained dancers use the art of physical movement and take dance to a whole new level that makes it as important as the spoken word.
The performance also incorporates other media, such as animation, film and text.
At one point in the show a projection screen behind the performer displays a chalkboard with an invisible hand guiding the chalk in response to what the performer says.
Though some of the slang early in the performance can be difficult to understand, audience members will receive a glossary of terms to help them. The slang settles as the show progresses, and the punch the words deliver cannot go unnoticed.
"You can love it or hate it," Lawrence cautions, "but engage with the issues in the piece."
The relevance of the intersection between religion and sexuality becomes apparent with only a brief glance at recent headlines. Last Friday, the New York Times reported on the difficulty a North Carolina man and woman had finding a Southern Baptist Church that would accept their family after the man revealed he was gay. Only one church in all of North Carolina would admit them, and it was ousted by the Southern Baptist Congregation for its welcoming stance on homosexuality.
"Why is the word of God not open to questioning?" Newson asks.
DV8 Physical Theatre will perform "To Be Straight with You" Friday, September 26, and Saturday, September 27, at 8 p.m. in Moore Theater at the Hopkins Center.