Melding technology, dance and theater forms into their own, distinct performance genre, DV8 Physical Theatre creates a new picture of homosexuality with its production of To Be Straight With You.
Based upon 85 interviews conducted by the company, the text of To Be Straight With You is formed entirely by the words spoken by people in those interviews. After announcing this and the performance’s opening, the evening’s events became a montage of modern experiences surrounding homosexuality.
The interviewees, nearly all of whom remained anonymous, are all residents of the UK, many of them emigrants or first-generation residents from the UK’s many ex-colonies. Some had left their birth countries because extreme views against homosexuality had pushed them out, others held those extreme views themselves. Both positions were expressed onstage through skillful dance representations, bringing life to the intensity of debates surrounding homosexuality and demonstrating its powerful physical existence.
While those of us in the United States, and especially those in California, have become engrossed in battles over legislation such as Prop 8, DV8’s performance shed light on the much graver problems of discrimination on an international level.
Early on in the show, the company utilized the terrific light-graphic of a large globe onstage. An actor inside the projection seemed to move it around him as he highlighted countries where homosexuality is criminalized, drawing specific attention to ex-colonies of the UK where homosexuality is a capital offense.
As the performance continued, the image of a globe became personalized with the interviewees’ stories, many of which related the extreme conflict experienced by religious individuals who retain their faith although that same faith chastises them for who they are. Through dramatic, sometimes violent and always spectacular dances and monologues, the cast repeated the ideas of and the terrors brought by Islamic and Christian extremism.
The show’s title, To Be Straight With You was echoed in the monologue of a man which was portrayed by a DV8 cast member who danced solely on the ground, seeming to roll around the ground underneath him in a way that represented the underlying emotions of both the company and the individuals whose words created the plays text. In this piece, found toward the performance’s end, the one line “to be straight with you” was repeated over and over, expressing the uncertainty and agony that people have in sharing stories of such painful nature.
At the same time, the dancer’s contact with the ground and the voice’s search to find the right words to “be straight” with his interviewer showed DV8’s deep ambition and ultimate accomplishment: finally telling it straight.