Let’s Talk About Dis at Sadler’s Wells
Let’s Talk About Dis, which first premiered in 2014, is part of Sadler’s Wells Theatre’s collection of collaborations within their Digital Stage in Focus programme. Directed and choreographed by Hetain Patel, the piece opens with an introduction to Candoco Dance Company, adding context to what audiences should expect while giving voice to the kinds of stories the troupe plans to tell. Furthermore, the initiation illuminates the significance of Candaco’s involvement in this particular performance.
Right from the start, the audience will understand the title: Let’s Talk About Dis. The show’s aim to interrogate issues of political correctness is heard loud and clear through its refusal to label individuals and its insistence on not judging people solely by their surface appearance. The dialogue is sarcastic and witty, edging on lighthearted humour and dry satire. There are also moments of tranquility and realisation which are amplified by the buzz of the microphone, plain black stage and shadows created by the dim lighting.
The dancers’ facial expressions convey a range of different emotions, from reactions of frustration and comedy to well-timed awkwardness. Dance, singing, spoken word and sign language are creatively incorporated into the performance, not just out of necessity but also as part of the overall ethos and storytelling method. The choreography exhibits smooth-flowing movements and transitions, timed perfectly with the narration. It is a shame, though, that there are so few of these segments.
Throughout the piece there is an emphasis on the portrayal of Candoco as a diverse company that spans the whole spectrum of identity. The group’s inclusivity illuminates the kinds of uncomfortable conversations people tend to avoid and confronts general biases and curiosities. After a build-up of sequences that specifically don’t acknowledge the performers’ impairments and identities, the composition bursts at the end with direct descriptions of the individuals coupled with an outcry of presumptions about the disabled community.
Important metaphors such as this conclusion, woven into the show’s form and content, are often playfully undercut with humour. Above everything else, this reflects the piece’s persistence that there is no need to wrap these conversations in abstract and poetic nuances. By dressing up language, these issues are only avoided. Let’s Talk About Dis ends similarly to how performance started: with everyone singing. However, this finale is disoriented by the different keys, tones and timing of their voices, demonstrating perhaps the progression of those involved throughout the work, before it cuts plainly to black.
Let’s Talk About Dis is at Sadler’s Wells from 26th December until 3rd December 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.