The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
Choreographer Lloyd Newson's Can We Talk About This? is heavy.
Physical theatre at its most eloquent, its subject matter - freedom of speech, censorship and Islam - is a high-risk gamble, controversial and confrontational in its intent.
A sign of the uncomfortable questions being asked is the fact that sections of the audience laugh nervously at some of the serious statements framed in Newson's wonderfully delirious choreography.
The production's sentiments come from a clever use of a documentary style, with a script derived from transcripts of interviews with academics, women's rights campaigners, writers and artists.
The commonality is that all have been affected by actions taken by those defending a religious doctrine that defies Western secular values and threatens those assumptions, particularly in relation to human rights.
By using the words of others Newson to some degree abdicates responsibility by not declaring his own political stance.
This leaves the entire piece hanging, without resolution, as a series of cut-and-paste statements about multiculturalism, the clash of cultural relativism, the arrogance of supremacism and the collision between free speech, free association and the constraints of conservative religious fundamentalism.
From the onset the audience is set on edge as a roll call of familiar and not so well-known "atrocities" associated with Islam are referenced. No solution is offered and that presumably is where Can't We Talk About This? rests its case.
While some may regard that as something of a cop-out, there is no doubt that the work is at its most successful in the riveting sequences throughout in which the spoken word combines with the movements of the performers.
An extraordinary technique, developed for his performers by Newson, it's seen here at its most refined. Newson's previous high-octane physical theatre gives way in this production to a more controlled but no less captivating style.
The powerful Christina May and Seeta Patel and the intense Hannes Langolf and Ira Mandela Siobhan articulate rapid-fire spoken statements at the same time as being caught up in curious, rapid motions where voice and body act in counterpoint.
Newson has for a long time transformed a whole range of communicative devices - traditional speech, acting, "verbatim" theatre, realism, acrobatics, mime and dance - into what is now a persuasive and unique language of abstract signs and codes.
It's very much a theatre of uncompromising directness. And it certainly provides risky art which packs a considerable punch.
Runs until March 28. Box office: (020) 7452-3000.
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