DV8 Physical Theatre is a dance company founded in 1986 and based in London, United Kingdom. It was formed by Lloyd Newson due to his discontentment with the superficiality of modern dance. Newson views physical theatre as using any methods in order to ‘find the most appropriate way to say something’. DV8’s work can be identified through its attempts to convey ideas and feelings with clarity as well as its emphasis on socio-political problems. Its works also incorporate a variety of mediums, such as dance and film. DV8’s perspective on performance is to push boundaries, investigate conventions and blur the lines between dance and theatre.
Firstly, one feature of DV8’s creative process is that Newson places importance on the message of the work rather than on the medium. Usually, he decides on the theme, then casts his performers depending on their suitability for the work and its subject matter. Hence, DV8 has no fixed cast of performers. The themes of DV8’s work exhibits Newson’s fascination with social, psychological and political problems. For example, one of DV8’s projects, “Can We Talk About This?”, which was staged in 2011, focuses on the socio-political issues of free speech, multiculturalism and Islam. In order to accurately portray his projects’ core themes, Newson conducts research to develop his ideas. In “Can We Talk About This?”, he did background reading into the issues of tolerance, religion and homosexuality, and conducted 85 one-on-one interviews.
Secondly, one feature of DV8’s creative process is that Newson uses his performers’ specific skills and experiences to create his work. This is in order to create more realistic characters that the actors can relate to. One example of this is shown in “To Be Straight With You”. The actor, Ankur Bahl, was a World Rope Skipping Champion, and was playing a teenage character. In order to bring out the character’s youth, Newson integrated Bahl’s skipping skills into the character. This shows that Newson taps on his actors’ talents to create more relatable and realistic characters.
Thirdly, one feature of DV8’s creative process is that Newson concentrates on details. This may be due to his experience as a dancer and choreographer. According to Ankur Bahl, every movement on stage is rehearsed and choreographed. Therefore, he had memorised what he was supposed to do whenever he was on stage. By being more detailed, each character’s actions can be further designed to better convey their intentions to the audience as well as to reach their objectives on stage. Therefore, Newson’s focus on details may be beneficial to help better shape a performance.
One last distinctive feature of DV8’s work is that the stage technicians work directly with the performers. In DV8’s performances, there is no stage manager behind the scenes. The performers and technicians are responsible for their own cues and individual responsibilities backstage, such as costume and set changes. This is reminiscent of devised theatre, where the whole team collaborates in the creative development of the performance.