Sam Freeman

Theatre | Comedy | Marketing

Category: My Theatre Reviews

Review: DV8: John

My sister bought me tickets to see DV8 at the Playhouse as a thank you present. I have to confess I’m not usually a fan of physical theatre, but they’ve an international reputation for creating amazing work so I pushed my prejudices aside and sat in the stalls for 75 minutes of, well, I didn’t really know, I failed to read the blurb before getting to the theatre… 75 minutes of something.

I think sometimes that can be the best way of experiencing theatre. I remember the first time I saw Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris. My sister (again) had bought us tickets and I didn’t know what to expect – I walked in with as clean a slate as possible and was pleasantly surprised. It’s something theatre’s (Lyric) have tried, to ask the audience to trust and see if they’re surprised. I have to confess I find it appealing. Although I am relatively broad minded there are shows I tend to avoid because of either content or form. Contemporary dance for example makes me break out in a cold sweat, although on the one occasion I accidentally watched it I quite enjoyed the show – but then other times… But back to DV8…

The show is almost exceptional, or perhaps excellent with a caveat.

The play revolves around a central character, John, and charts his journey from a violent abusive upbringing to prison via crime and homelessness. It is an incredible, moving and touching story, with beautiful verbatim dialogue and spoken with eloquence, fragility and real tenderness. The set design beautifully compliments the story, the revolve used less as a way of technically showing off and more as an integral part of the storytelling. It is a simple, almost beautiful stage construction that morphs and moves hypnotically. Similarly the lighting and sound are tremendous, they are stylized but not over designed and add a gritty realism to the show with a pulsating energy.

The story took an interesting diversion, showing people coming to terms and discovering their sexuality in a gay sauna revealing a world not often spoken about in the media, screen or stage. The business sense of the sauna is defined and the challenges, but also that sense of community, of belonging in a place of intimate anonymity.

However the show didn’t quite work for me. There seemed to be an incredulity between the world of John and the world of the sauna – he just seemed to be there, to arrive – I didn’t get a sense of journey, or if it was there I missed it. A man discovering his sexuality needs to feel like a discovery surely? A conflicted realization? The storytellers voice of John also disappeared for a large section which was disappointing, for me it was his story, his journey, and although context is very important I wanted John to be telling me about what was happening, stepping through his reality as he had in the first half rather than less central characters. The physical theatre felt at points unnecessary and almost tacked on – everything should serve a purpose and there were moments when it was added when perhaps stillness would have been more powerful – those moments felt miscalculated and lost and occasionally jarred with the incredible tableau’s that showed moments of a troubled life passing. There were moments of stereotypical physical theatre – by which i mean the twisting and rhythmic movement that has been seen and done before – although interesting it didn’t build, add or develop.

Yet despite this I enjoyed the show. It did what good theatre does, opens your eyes, offers new perspective and touches you. Good theatre but not the greatest theatre and a story, John’s story, that I’d love to learn more of.

8/10 from me…


Life’s a pitch for a good manager, in the testosterone filled world of football, there is the hard work but also the banter, the great times of winning a trophy or two, of the desperate times in which a club can come so close to extinction that it threatens a whole community, it can destabilise it to the point where it may never recover. A club’s fortunes doesn’t just depend on what happens on the pitch, with the supporters or indeed with the person who bank rolls it all, it depends on the everyday making headway and for supposed social stigma’s to be recognised as just life. There is no wrong in being different; if you can do the job then you are good enough, no matter who you are. Continue reading

Football; international bajillion-dollar industry to be sure, but one not exactly known for its tolerance of diversity (insert undergraduate thesis here). This is explored in the touching drama Gaffer, which runs all this week at the Unity Theatre.

Produced by the Unity with Lives Of Others Theatre in association with Homotopia and Everton in the Community, it is directed by the theatre’s own marketing manager Sam Freeman, who is starting to chalk up a successful stage career moonlighting as a comedian (he was among the cast of this year’s Improvathon), writer and director (his play Floating, about the NHS, toured nationally). Continue reading

The beautiful game, it seems, has an ugly side – and not just one that leaves teeth marks.

Writer Chris Chibnall, the former Formby schoolboy behind everything from Broadchurch to Born and Bred, penned his bitter-sweet footballing drama Gaffer more than a decade ago.

And yet, dispiritingly, little appears to have changed, when it comes to football’s attitudes to sex and sexuality at least. Continue reading

Gaffer is an impressive act of performance with all twenty parts being played by just one actor. He carries a play that recreates the triumphs and disasters of life on the pitch and a narrative that moves the central character from early middle age back to being 15 years old. The weight of all of these physical and emotional demands falls on Stephen Hedger whose performance is impeccable.

Continue reading

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