A Rake’s Progress for now

DV8 John
DV8 John
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What starts out as a story about death becomes instead a ‘reality show’ of one man’s life and loves, in this strident and uncompromising piece of physical theatre from the internationally-acclaimed DV8 company.

Artistic director Lloyd Newson has fashioned 75 minutes of storytelling from a real account of a life survived, rather than lived, and its parallel love story that dips into dark and dangerous territory.

It is a 21st century Rake’s Progress, but one that starts from a world of urban deprivation... Then gets worse.

Told through the revolving doors of Anna Fleischle’s ingenious rotating set design, John’s early years story is of wretched child cruelty, physical assault, incest and depravity. Drink and drugs become natural painkillers and crime and violence the only way to feed the addiction.

The word by word account of his life is acted out in a series of physical movements and montages. At times they can resemble those cautionary waxworks tableaux you would find on the promenade, while at other moments characters bend and twist about eachother, simulating the frantic view of a junkie, or the more measured movements of police or probation services.

Nothing is off limits, either in language or portrayal, especially when John’s life, and his quest for love, become defined by the world of the gay sauna parlour.

For all its dark desperation though there are still moments of humour, even humanity.

John shows both what the body can achieve – as well as what the owner of just one such body can actually endure.

The Grand audience was fortunate to see such a spell-binding theatre performance.

David Upton