JOHN Lyttelton, SE1

IN WHICH GUEST CRITIC AND TOP THEATREKITTEN LUKE JONES IS SADLY UNDERWHELMED

 

 

This – created by Lloyd Newson of DV8 physical company – wasn’t quite the piece of dance theatre that had been sold to me. There was quite a bit of writhing around towards the end, but for the most part it was a lot of shuffling with quite dry verbatim dialogue. John follows the story a man with a hefty claim to having the most depressing life story. We start with domestic abuse, shuffle over to promiscuity, then to drugs, obesity, prison, then over to more promiscuity although this time gay. It is given to us as one man’s tale, although it lands as quite a hodgepodge. We rattle through traumas with little to chew over other than basic facts. Some are just casually slipped in – such as the fact that this lean dancer is meant to be 25 stone? Sure.

 

The dance too feels like a stray addition, which slowly sneaks in across the dankly lit revolving stage. At first it is just a lot of poses, twitches and high-concept walking, but its airtime increases and becomes it itself becomes more confusing. A court scene choreographed to manic shuffling or a conversation given from a tumbling ball of limbs. I get it, but is it just making up for the stale dialogue?
However it does have a sly wit which punctures some of the more worthy or strange moments – such as him spending a good 35 minutes of this 75 minute play in a gay sauna for no apparent reason. ‘Credit card fraud – that’s just using someone else’s credit card’ he lists off in a roll call of his crimes. Lloyd Newson has created such a debauched world, that by the time John is out of prison, off drugs and just hanging around in gay saunas for company it seems totally normal.

 

All this would be terribly unwatchable were it not for the excellent turn (shuffle, slide and wiggle) by Hannes Langolf as John. His quiet regional voice brilliantly captures a confused, lost and quite apathetic character in the midst of all this high art. It is a testament to his performance that his dialogue never lost me, despite his flailing arms’ best efforts. But unfortunately this plays like one of those films an art gallery. You could walk in at any time, sit down and watch a bit. There was little arc, nothing to keep me in my seat. It could very well have been on loop and me just passing.

Box Office: 020 7452 3000 to 13 Jan

rating: Two  2 meece rating

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