Review in Issue 6-1 | Spring 1994

Cottaging (men having sex with men in public toilets) is the subject of DV8’s MSM. Clandestine and taboo, cottaging creates a fascination in itself. An initial voice-over points out that every word you hear is fact. The style is documentary, yet even documentaries can communicate energy and life. MSM is cold, bleak and lonely. It speaks of passion, but we see none. Presented as theatre rather than dance, the action takes place in a public convenience. Michael Howells’ inspired set, made up of moving walls, hidden doors and windows which shift throughout, reflects this oblique and labyrinthine world. Limbs appear through cubby-holes, in a beautifully crafted display of dismemberment that describes an emotional alienation brought about by the necessary contrivance of these men’s lives. In the walls live their fantasies, whilst above the ceiling naked bodies appear and weave themselves between each other, their aesthetic beauty drenched in warm light. In recognisable DV8-style, bodies levitate and hang suspended in darkness whilst they eat, smoke or talk to themselves, looking like something by Magritte. But in all this beauty, the eroticism keeps a low profile.

The confessional style adds to the dismal atmosphere; there are moments of ironic humour, but the men on stage never laugh. There seems a lot to off load about a sense of badness and a need for love, distorted by a place where excrement and urine are the only seductive aromas of intimacy. Jocelyn Pook’s soundtrack of water cisterns and dripping taps provides a powerful eeriness that deepens the gloom.

MSM is an emotional cul-de-sac, joyless and without celebration, where all creative risks are expressed technically. Thrilling though they are, they are not enough to open the hearts of the audience. Intellectually moving, perhaps, is the closing image of water from taps, overflowing the basins, floor and stage, like a ceaseless rain of tears, which denies even the humanity of a curtain call. Newson seems deeply angry, no doubt with just cause, but such bleakness is in danger of alienating its audience. Love is required, but not just love of design.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Nov 1993

This article in the magazine

Issue 6-1
p. 19