The Daily Mail rated it 0 out of 5, classed it “a national disgrace”, as well as “sleazy” and “amoral”. So anything that could offend the Daily Mail that much, must be worth seeing. Right?
Lloyd Newson interviewed over 50 men about love and sex. From this emerged the story of John; this play depicts his and other real-life stories in the form of movement and spoken art.
As soon the play starts, you are thrown into the story of John and introduced to his broken dysfunctional family. His abusive father, who later rapes the babysitter. His mother, who used her kids to steal uniforms for order, and later died of a drug overdose. John and his siblings head to a life of addiction and conviction.
While it may sound depressive and intense to watch, which it is at points, it is also full of humour. The court scene had a sense of nonsense about it (coincidental?), and while John was being sent to prison for arson, you couldn’t help but smile at him and the way he dealt with the whole situation.
While there was no interval in the production, it didn’t need it, there was clearly two parts of the play. The second part was about John coming out of prison and frequenting gay saunas (which is the bit that the Daily Mail got offended by).
The second part wasn’t just about sex, although it was a major part. We see the desire that John wants to find security and love, while also coming to terms with his sexuality.
Additionally, we are provided with some other stories from gay sauna patrons. Including the scene where the owners go into graphic detail about having to clean excrement up from uncommon areas; to the HIV positive guy who has unprotective sex with others.
Just like the stories, the nudity is bold and unforgiven, although after the initial shock it kind of blends into the background as you get engrossed back into the lives of John and the other guys.
The music and staging heightened the production superbly. Opening with the harrowing tune ‘The Way’ by Zack Hemsey, and the constant revolving set felt like you were going through the rollercoaster of John’s life. You were drawn in from the beginning until the very end. While the set was unapologetically stark, a constant reminder of John’s life, the set changes were completed seamlessly.
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Hannes Langolf, who played John, was fantastic and honest. He plays someone that society generally turn their back on, but you can’t help feeling sympathetic and understanding to some of the actions John has made through life.
Having never seen a physical theatre production before, I didn’t know what to expect or even if I would ‘get it’. However, the whole cast moved throughout the stage and captured that emotion with ease. Quite frankly, I was in awe!
To be honest, I am struggling to understand Quentin Letts’ rating for this play. His review clearly showed that he admired the stage production:
The dancers in John execute their art with rare grace and precision. The company also performs backstage heroics changing the configurations on an almost incessantly mobile revolve. Technically, the show has things to admire.
The contentious issue for him was in relation to what essentially is a big sub-plot. He ignored the the underlying story of John and the staging in general. His uncomfort in relation to truthful sauna use made him forget what he wrote about previously. While I wouldn’t expect a high review rating from Quentin, his zero is contradictory.
Let’s be honest, this play isn’t going to be for everyone. If it wasn’t for Quentin, I would most likely never have gone and seen it. However, I am glad that I did. Trust me, if you see yourself as open-minded, then go and see it. For me, I shall be keeping my eyes peeled for the next DV8 production, so I can buy tickets.