NT Live: John ★★★★
National Theatre Live
9th December 2014
With 18 highly acclaimed theatre pieces, 4 television films, and over 50 national and international awards, DV8’s new Production, John, is currently performing at The National Theatre in London, since 30th October, before soon going on tour around the UK. The Production has now been screened in association with National Theatre Live, and this is how I viewed this performance, though I will be going to watch the production again, on stage, early next year.
To get the inspiration and concept for the production, Llyod Newson, Artistic Director of the DV8 company, interviewed 50 men asking very personal questions of love and sex, with one of the people interviewed used as the stimulus, John, whose story followed crime and other dark themes that are thoroughly explored with the piece performed, as even from the first minute, as we are introduced to John and his family, we are brought to the serious attention of Rape, this being between his parents, and even his father and babysitter.
Other themes explored are his criminal years in shoplifting and other business, but the major theme that is explored throughout, and one that takes a predominant role in what feels like the second half of this production, is sexuality, in particular, homosexuality, which to incorporate this, the actor’s on stage were fully nude, making it understandable why the rating for this screening was 18+ and shown at a much later time than usual NT Live screenings, with this being 8pm.
What I loved about this production was how realistic and poignant the topics and themes were to everyday life. Hearing this story told, and knowing that it is in fact a really life situation, at times really set me back about how someone could live their life with the set of experiences that he has had in his life. Though through all of this, there are some really nice, touching, and comedic parts to the production, especially an early scene in the piece where John is recollecting all of his past girlfriends. It’s a nice pause for breath after having witness the events of rape and fire within the first 10 minutes of the play.
One thing I have not as yet mentioned is the use of the revolving stage that was used in this production, which was used with slick and smooth precision during the prologue of the play, and credit must due to all the actors for being on time to every movement and having that full concentration of moving into different scenes and settings in John’s family household, which the stage is moving at the same time.
It was also really nice to hear more of the 50 people who were interviewed, from the owners of the gay sauna, where the initial interviews actually took place, and other visitors to that exact sauna, learning about their rituals and how they feel being at the sauna affects them and their sex life.
Overall, John is a production which is an innovation; its a bold statement on society in today’s era, and just hearing the real life story of John’s experiences, I feel like the way it was produced and resurrected on stage was done with great precision and confident movement throughout.