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DV8

Images from Life

'The Cost of Living'

by Lyndsey Winship

November 12-15, 2003 -- Brighton Dome

Thereís an amazing scene in DV8ís "The Cost of Living" when a tall skinny man walks on stage and sets down his ghetto blaster. Youíre thinking: lives alone, not many friends, probably a bit repressed, sadness in his eyes. He presses play and Cherís "Believe" pumps out of the speakers. The man begins a routine of expressionless disco hand moves, just marking out the beat.

Then slowly you start to see his pursed lips curling at the corner, a slight smile in his eyes, the music catching a grip on his soul. Soon heís throwing his whole body into it, gyrating around the stage with abandon, totally seduced and set free by the music. Itís such a simple idea but itís so completely joyful and life-affirming that the audience whoop in appreciation.

Dance lets this guy be who he wants to be. But what is it to us? Thatís the kind of question DV8 asks in this piece which is all about image and perfection, worth and self-worth, celebrity and conformity and other such contemporary queries.

Whatís a dance worth? £5 for a pliť one performer suggests. With arms thatís a tenner, add some emotion you double the fee. ďHeard you can do some tricksĒ, one man pesters a balletic dancer. ďDo that thing with your leg. I can pay you,Ē he insists, pegging her as a performing pony, or perhaps a prostitute.

DV8 confronts us with some striking images. David Toole is a dancer with no legs, gracefully spinning on his hands. He is bombarded with provocative questions from another dancer, everything we want to know but would be far too polite to ask Ė "Were you born like that?" "Ever had a girlfriend?" We donít get any answers.

Another "differently sized" dancer moves his large but nimble frame around the stage. Itís tokenistic but thatís the point. ďDV8 hired me for my size,Ē he says, ďnow Iím worried if I lose any weight Iíll lose my job!Ē No ironies are lost here.

A group of beauty pageant babes peel back the pretence to show the scarred pasts behind their smiling faces. Drugs! Sex! Therapy!

A series of clever and playful scenes are danced out, all asking pointed questions or painting a picture of mindless conformity. Couples strolling in the park with colourful balloons, someone getting in a tangle with a tape measure, a demented game of follow-the-leader. Plus nudity, cross dressing and suicide.

The show completely kept my attention for 90 minutes although it wasnít nearly as controversial or hard hitting as I expected from Lloyd Newson. Yes, the obsession with image is unhealthy, especially prescribed images of perfection. At the same time watching dance is all about judging images. They know this too, so seeing as weíve paid our ticket money, DV8 gives us what we came to see, interspersing the theatrical scenes with sleek contemporary duets.

Itís all very entertaining and well paced, shifting effortlessly from realism to fantasy with the help of a great set and lighting and an eclectic musical selection. Comic, tragic and technically slick, DV8 is the original "physical theatre" company, and theyíre still doing it better than the rest.


Edited by Holly Messitt

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