National Theatre Live's "John": Life Is a Carousel

                               Hannes Langolf in and as National Theatre Live's "John"  
       (Screened at Cape Cinema in Dennis, MA and at a motion picture theater near you)

The Internationally renowned DV8 Physical Theatre has brought its powerful new production of “John” to the National Theatre as part of the current HD broadcasts at a movie theater near you. A work conceived and directed by Australian-born choreographer and theater-maker Lloyd Newson, it contains adult themes, strong language and nudity (labeled as suitable for 18 years and up). DV8 (one has got to love that moniker) has produced eighteen highly acclaimed dance-theatre works and four films for television, which have earned over fifty national and international awards. This current work depicts authentic real-life stories, combining movement and spoken word, creating an intensely involving experience. Lloyd Newson, DV8’s Artistic Director, interviewed over fifty men asking them pointed questions, initially about love and sex. One of those men was John.

What has emerged is a story both mind-blowing and moving, covering many years of crime, addictions and struggling for survival. John ends up on a search in which his own life converges with the lives of many others, in an unusual and unknown place. The character of John, taken directly from oral transcripts, is a survivor (primarily through obsession with exercise while imprisoned), despite a liftetime of losses of those whom he loved. He eventually found some security in the anonymity and ambiguity of gay saunas. The complex role of John, undertaken by Hannes Langolf (who also served as Newson’s Creative Associate) was a physical tour de force. The rest of the cast included Taylor Benjamin, Lee Boggess, Gabriel Castillo (who also provided Musical Supervision), Ian Garside, Ermira Goro, Garth Johnson, Vivien Wood and Andi Xhuma. The constantly-revolving Set Design (matching the constantly moving choreography) was by Anna Fleischle, with the eerie Lighting Design by Richard Godin, and the atmospheric Sound Design by Gareth Fry.

The production was a daring and provocative one, controversial even for this company, known for its typical edginess. Not five minutes into the action, there has already been portrayed sadism, rape, incest, and a drug overdose. There is humor, naturally dark, but the storytelling is predominantly one of survival against unfathomable odds. Newson attests that not only was John real, but he survives still. That example alone was worth attending this unique production, for which National Theatre deserves many kudos. This was what theater and dance, and dance theater, are all about.

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