CAN We Talk About This? is choreographer and theatre-maker Lloyd Newson‘s latest and most potent provocation. He asks a question he believes is answered too often in the negative in Western society. All around him he sees Western nations allowing radical Islamists rights and freedoms they refuse to accord others. He sees abuses against women and children excused as cultural practice. He sees the discussion of such things labelled as racism. He sees appeasement.
There are also less familiar situations that are no less important: the excoriation of a British headmaster who said he believed multiculturalism had gone too far and the hurdles faced by those working to expose the practice of forced marriages in some Asian communities in Britain. Superb performers pack a political punch, Sydney Opera House
It’s important to say at this point Newson isn’t conducting a wholesale attack on Muslims or Islam. And the need to say that illustrates the problem exactly. When any questioning of behaviour and attitudes is construed as attack, how does one have a reasonable conversation? And how does a society that prides itself on accepting a plurality of views deal with groups for whom only one way of thinking is correct?
These are serious, knotty, crucially important matters.
Newson, in an interview with The Weekend Australian last month, spoke about conducting interviews that formed the basis of To Be Straight With You. «I found it intriguing to hear that many Muslims who feel that there is rampant Islamophobia were often the same people or the same community that were also very willing to condemn homosexuals, and [express] quite reactionary views on women. So, on one hand, people were asking for respect and tolerance, but I didn’t necessarily see it being given back,» he said.
The opening salvo of Can We Talk About This? will be much discussed wherever this work is seen, I imagine. With no preamble a man asks the audience members whether they feel morally superior to the Taliban. Hands up if you do. (The program tells us writer Martin Amis was responsible for this highly charged question.)
Danseforestillinges titel er ikke hentet fra et dansk dagligstuedrama i firserne, men henviser til Theo Van Goghs sidste, tungt symbolmættede ord, da han sekunder inden sin død indser, at reglerne for samtale i Holland havde ændret sig: » «We can still talk about it! Don’t do it! Don’t do it.» At tænke sig, at skulle ville se en danseforestilling!