DramaLondonPerformance ArtReview

One – Battersea Arts Centre, London

 Creators and performers: Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas

Reviewer: Scott Matthewman

Surrealist performers Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas have, in their previous shows Eurohouse and Palmyra, presented a fractious, occasionally violent onstage relationship.

As their new show One opens, Nasi is standing atop a tall stepladder and, despite Bert and selected audience members asking him to come down, refuses to budge.

So starts a show that is ostensibly about the distance in relationships, and the difficulty of reconciling them. In this show, Nasi is generally the passive, implacable half, while Bert is a more provocative antagonist, smothering Nasi or spreading his exposed buttocks in order to provoke.

The physicality of the pair’s clowning provides for often uncomfortable laughter as the duo take a simple idea – reaching across a table for contact with each other, for example – to desperate extremes. This extends verbally, too, with words and phrases (such as “I love you”) repeated and repeated until the surface meaning is lost, and the variations of tone and delivery start to tell their own story.

On the surface, the whole piece becomes a reconciliation of the personas Lesca and Voutsas have crafted for themselves over their previous shows (which the pair will be forming in a single day, as a one-off triptych, at the end of this piece’s run). It could also be an allegory for the ever-widening differences, political and social, which blight our lives outside theatre. To their credit, though, Bert and Nasi avoid blatant reference – save for a final vote when the audience are asked to select between three endings for the show.

In the end, though, only one of the three endings is possible, even though its scope – a Cirque du Soleil-style aerial dance spectacular – is cut down by a hilariously polite email from Battersea Arts Centre’s management. Instead, we are treated to a conclusion which, while it may play out on the ground, captures exactly the elements of romanticism promised.

It caps an intriguing, occasionally unsettling, often hilarious hour of art. If, as we are told, One is the final part of a trilogy, it provides a satisfying conclusion. But whatever Bert and Nasi go on to create, may they forever squabble for our benefit.

Continues until 19 October 2019 | Image: Contributed

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