Yet each man kills the thing he loves
Third in a series of performances exploring the complexity of human and political conflict, One by Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas is a clever, surreal piece of work that sits between live art and theatre and largely draws from clowning. Amid the ruins of a toxic relationship, Lesca and Voustas are in search of the way to come together.
Mischiando comicità, clowneria e brutalità, Bertrand Lesca e Nasi Voutsas tentano di scoprire cosa li divide in uno show surreale tra teatro e live art. Ultima pièce di una trilogia che esamina la natura umana e politica del conflitto, One si avvale di non pochi riferimenti all’attuale polarizzazione anglosassone tra destra e sinistra che sembra non trovare rimedio. Bert e Nasi trasformano il Battersea Arts Centre prima in una stanza di tortura psicologica, poi in un onirico cielo stellato in cui la coppia può abbandonare il suolo e le proprie bassezze in un’improbabile danza di riconciliazione.
Performance makers and Associate Artists with Farnham Maltings and MAYK, Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas work somewhere between live art and theatre. Their most recent piece of work, One is based on a fixed structure, but largely develops through improvisation. Bert and Nasi’s relationship on stage and the audience’s reactions play a crucial role in the outline of the performance.
One follows on from the multi-awarded shows Eurohouse and Palmyra, the last part of a trilogy that explores the nature of conflict both on a political and human level. If vitriol is a constant in the whole trilogy, One wants to find if reconciliation is possible.
It starts with Nasi on a ladder with no intention to come down and Bert staring at him searchingly. Bert is controlled, apparently casual, but has no good intentions. Nasi is safe up there for the time being, but how long is this going to last? Tension slowly builds. Nasi clings to his privileged position. Bert wants him down, and he won’t give up.
The audience is addressed, spectators don’t know what to say, pleasing Bert means upsetting Nasi and viceversa, and how awkward are we all when asked to be put in the middle of a couple’s argument? Are they a couple, though? Are they friends? How do they love each other? What we see, for sure, with increasing wealth of details, is how skilfully they make their respective lives unbearable. And this provides lots of laughs. Human cruelty shines in its outstanding wit, imagination, brilliance. Passive-aggressiveness, bullying, a hint of physical brutality. The glorious knockabout of human mean-spirited gimmicks that the duo devises before our eyes is exhilarating. Lesca and Voutsas are perfect clowns, lethally funny, superb in making us feel at ease while their relationship precipitates to hell. “As much as they’re clowns” Voutsas comments, “they’re extensions of us as well. Sadly, we are those people. It’s us pushed to an extreme”.
Music counterpoints include Imagine by John Lennon and Nina Simone’s Feelings in its Live at Montreux version. The music interludes flip the atmosphere so significantly that it would not be possible to imagine One without these two songs. Suddenly, as soon as we find ourselves singing along, all the cruelty we have seen turns into tenderness, everything seems acceptable and reconcilable.
Unbelievably, the piece ends with a wonderful, dream-like dance. Drawn by Bert and Nasi’s words into a sky full of stars, we almost see them 15 inches above the stage, their fingertips touching, in an impossible flight over the pettiness of human evil.
One has references to the current political polarisation between left and right, although this is never explicit and somehow not visible at a first glance. More broadly, One is a piece about the complexity of human relationships, and it may suggest that coming together is possible perhaps, if each part acknowledges what the gap between two opposite sides is really made of.
Battersea Arts Centre
London – SW11 5TN
until Saturday 19th October, 8 p.m.
by Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas
commissioned by Battersea Arts Centre and Bristol Old Vic Ferment
developed with the support of the National Theatre, MAYK, Shoreditch Town Hall and HOME