No topic is off limits in a new show coming to Blackpool this week.
JOHN is an innovative work from physical theatre company DV8, which covers themes of love, sex, drug abuse and crime.
DV8 artistic director Lloyd Newson initially set out to create a piece to question euthanasia, but following the death of his friend Nigel Charnock, with who he co-founded DV8, those plans were put on hold.
“His death put me into a bit of a spin for about a year,” Lloyd said.
“I started talking to friends and conversations came up about love.
“Nigel was very important to us, and was one of the early collaborators to DV8. He was very public about the issues in the work he made.
“I started talking to men about these things and decided to interview them about intimacy and love, then sex comes up.”
This inspired Lloyd to then look at male relationships and interactions. He interviewed 50 men of who the eponymous John was one of the first subjects, sharing the details of his ‘extraordinary’ life.
John went into care at the age of 10, from where his life spiralled out of control – racking up 65 convictions, becoming a father to a son he never sees, sleeping rough, using heroin and crack cocaine, and eventually winding up in jail. “He came off drugs and decided he wanted to educate himself,” JOHN questions how a person can choose to change and ‘redeem’ their life, and examines how they have survived these extreme situations.
John’s life is recounted with the use of physical movement, through his quest for love and friendship which leads him through some unexpected doors. While John is at the centre of the piece, played by Hannes Langolf, there are five other characters who emerged during Lloyd’s interviews, including two owners of a gay sauna – whose ‘funny anecdotes’ are shared to give some lighter moments in the performance.
Besides the tough subject matter, what also sets JOHN and much of DV8’s work apart from the traditional contemporary dance world, is the use of speech.
Text from the interviews is used to create dialogue in the work, a major break from the norm.
“I have got tired of talking head plays, with people walking round and chatting, and equally I’m tired of dance where people don’t open their mouths,” Lloyd explained.
A spokesman for the Grand Theatre said: “JOHN tells a compelling yet challenging story, which is difficult yet often heart-warming.”
The performances are part of the Grand’s Arts Council England funding for dance and physical theatre, and the venue’s new Dance Pass ticket offer covers DV8. as well as Ultima Vez next week and BalletBoyz in May.
* JOHN is at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool, tomorrow and Friday, 7.30pm. Call (01253) 290190 for tickets.