In the crowded Drama theatre at the Sydney Opera House, you can see the bright shiny faces of the Sydney intelligentsia and arts crowd (and me) – chatting – gently assured of all that is known and assumed – we are a tolerant open-minded, culturally sensitive bunch – we are aware of the impact of intolerance in a society. We know where we stand on issues of racial and religious intolerance.

We know intolerance is an ugly and horrible thing.

It brings about war and hatred and genocide – acts that a civil society deem horrific and unacceptable.

A sensitive bunch such as we are always ready to give people their space and time to express and practice their culture, their language and their religion. Because we believe in the value of multi-culturalism. We believe in acceptance of other people’s customs and beliefs.

You agree, don’t you? You’re not racsist, are you? You are accepting of others, aren’t you? you are proud to be living in a city such as Sydney with it’s array of temples and mosques? You are outraged when someone in Newtown paints on the side of their house a slogan against the wearing of burqas –

and you read the discussions and form your private political view about freedom and expression…

But all in all, you are pretty tolerant. In fact, accepting of others, and you’d sort of better be, because there is so much cultural diversity in Sydney (and Australia) that you’ll suffer not accepting the fact that this is not a white Australia – and never has been.

DV8. A British company. Have come to visit to open up a question to us and asks us to raise our hands if we
“feel morally superior to the Taliban?”

Only about 15% of the audience I attended did.
I didn’t raise my hand. Perhaps it was the term “superior” that inhibited me. I don’t feel superior to anything or anyone. So I sat, hands in my lap.

What launches forth from this moment on is a carefully crafted verbatim discussion and debate from a range of sources which explore the actions of the Taliban in great detail – from Muslims forced to undergo witness protection programs for escaping their forced marriages, or threatened and intimated because of art (literature, films) they have made…

The question then becomes – where do we draw the line to say that what your cultural practice is, is ultimately harmful to society? Is it ok for a man to bash his wife, if the Quran says so? After all – that is their culture… what right do we have to interfere?

There is a vast quantity of material collated and compiled from interviews and speeches given – all recited plainly and clearly by a troupe of dancers/physical performers. At times the movements are bizarre and mesmerizing – at times they jar and interrupt the rhythm of the speech.

I sit and watch as a woman with a cup of tea is placed and replaced on the shoulders of a man – she is forever shifting.

It is interesting that this style of performance is used to express such a text-heavy production – this being my first DV8 experience I’m not sure. Though for me sometimes I found the stretch between the visual and the aural distracting – in fact I stopped listening in parts. My quibble was that at no time I felt torn about what I was hearing. The didactic of the viewpoint was constant and consistent and the loudest parts were from the viewpoint that we should feel morally superior to the Taliban.

Though a very British-centric production (I heard in the foyer that this work was never intended to tour outside of the UK – I don’t know if that is true or not) – we are a clever enough audience to relate and translate for ourselves what this means to us here in Australia – but I couldn’t stop fantasizing about what would happen if Shaun Parker and Version 1.0 were commission to make a piece of work together….

At the root of this production is a series of questions that asks us to confront what is tolerance? What is the value of multiculturalism? What do we stand for? What will we stand against? What are we afraid of?

There is a free talk today (27th August 4pm at The Playhouse at the Sydney Opera House) and I thoroughly urge you to buy yourself a coffee and ask yourself and your society some questions about what is acceptable. And what is not.