It’s no surprise to see a theatrical production that combines various styles of performance art. In this genre-bleeding age, seeing a show that jumps from drama to dance to dark comedy and back not only maintains an uptempo performance, it sees to it that a broad cross-section of audience members are kept content. If you don’t like too much drama, you’ll likely stick around for the punchline…
But it is a nice surprise when a production pulls off genre-splicing brilliantly, especially if it manages to do so in the first ten minutes and keeps up the variety throughout.
Betroffenheit is a kaleidoscopic production by a Canadian troupe of artists that recently featured in the Perth International Arts Festival program. Indeed, it’s about the most eclectic show in one already very eclectic calendar.
The production begins with a dazzling presentation of sound and vision, samples of a major tragedy going down (which sounds like it may be referencing 9/11) blaring from different speakers while lights and strobes are set off here and there. As the audio-visual chaos is unfolding, electrical wires worm their way across the stage and then a spotlight is cast on a character crouched in the corner; our main protagonist who is trying to deal with post-traumatic stress, a situation that can be as dramatic as the disaster that preceded it.
In trying to come to terms with torment, our central character is constantly distracted by various entertainers – a mime artist here, a talkshow host there (sometimes even stepping into the shoes of the host himself), flamenco beauties, tap dancers, comedians and other carnival-like characters that either add to his state of inundation, provide light relief, or both all at once – which only adds to the poor soul’s sense of dissonance. It’s like watching a person going through symptoms of bipolar disorder where the highs are really high, juxtaposed by unbearable lows.
As a witness to this tug-o-war of sensations, audience members can either try hard to make sense of it all, or simply see it as it is: an expression of the great gamut that is human emotion.
Life throws all manner of disaster, glory, drama, humour and everything in between at us as individuals so why not see a show that sees all this presented in awesome choreographed guise?
It’s a pity Betroffenheit had a short season in the Perth Festival program. More people ought to have had the chance to see this.
With the festival overlapping with the carnival that is Fringe, Betroffenheit is the perfect medium to get a taste of various performance art. Be sure to book a ticket if the circus ever rolls into town again. Antonino Tati
For other productions and events in the Perth International Arts Festival program visit www.perthfestival.com.au.