Friday, 8 May 2009

Don John

Caught Kneehigh's latest show Don John at the BAC last night and once again had a lovely time in their company.

As with Brief Encounter the work has a tremendous sense of yearning to it and a half wish/ half belief that whatever... and I mean whatever... happens ... everything will turn out alright. Into this utopia swaggers Don John dispensing momentary pleasure and instant heartbreak in equal measure.

The show is clever as well as charming. Set in Wintertime 1978, at the fag end of the last Labour government, it reveals a world of weakened authority, power failures, strikes and the brink of chaos. Avuncular Jim Callaghan turns into free the market, greed is good Thatcher, the choreographed postures of John Travolta are threatened by the spontaneity of the Punk revolution and Don John - with Sid Viscous snakelike androgyny, unstoppable in his drive - crashes and burns in a party dress.

How we long for the safety of the dancehall, the mirror ball, the special magic of a caring touch. How we scrabble in the mire during the uncertain days of change.

Thirty years on and once again a recession threatens to throw us into the immediate gratification of hedonism, the show both shows us the joys of this 'straight' abandon whilst warning us of what we'll lose if we do give in. Pact with the devil anyone?

A moment of heart break and wonder sum up the whole. Alan, kind but unexciting, tells his unfaithful, but remorseful, lover Zerlina,

'I don't care about your secrets, I just want to hear your truths.'
Signed up and onside, we're back in Auden's dicotomy for 'the normal heart' which desires 'not universal love, but to be loved alone!'

Nostalgic, rural and hopeful - what can go wrong if we give in to the moonlight, the girl/boy next door, Barry White and the home brewed cider?

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