The end/ Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas

A combination of theatre, live art and dance performance The end was the direct and heart-warming result of last year’s lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. The foundation it was built on was the question of (not Stanislavski’s) What if – what if we break up? What if the world ends in one hundred quintillion years? The performers’ duo, Bertrand Lesca, and Nasi Voutsas have been collaborating ever since the performance trilogy Palmyra, One, and Eurohouse that explored power dynamics within the political context. Lesca’s and Voutsas’ fictional or real roots (England, France, Greece) have been referenced multiple times throughout the narrative, sometimes satirically – Write to Tate. – You’re French. Write to Pompidou!; a documentary material has been used in the performance along with a fictional one, and the performance also touches on political and social issues, though more subtly than their previous work. There are two parallel storylines, one is personal, and dealing with Lesca’s and Voutsas’ intimate relationship, and the second one warns of global environmental issues and imagines the direction our planet is moving in millenniums to come. Connecting the micro-narrative to the wider picture, an individual destiny to a shared one, gives the performance a sense of metaphysical wholeness. The story of the Earth is told in form of an impersonal written presentation, silently displayed on the big screen. The relationship is portrayed by using the intimate language of touch (sometimes gentle, sometimes a kick), dance, step, walk and hop, stretch and balance. We are witnessing, as the title suggests, the decline of a relationship along with the threat of climate cataclysm lurking in the background. Does the idea of global catastrophe make the individual pain of breaking up a relationship more or less bearable? Does it bring people closer, and make us appreciate every moment spent together? What role do we play in creating the future? These are some of the questions the performance subtly poses through Lesca’s and Voutsas’ embodiment. Their dance is an emotional rollercoaster touching to watch, but this warmth stems not so much from the choreography as it does from the stage chemistry and connection between two long-time collaborators. Their sensory stage relationship evolves before our eyes, from a gentle touch to a hug and to an almost wrestling match. We are invited into their private little world with the gentle sound of acoustic guitar and the lyrics of Arthur Russell’s song – I close my eyes and listen, To hear the corn come out, Don’t you hear the stars they glisten, As we go in and out. Music is the mediator connecting all these narratives, and it was frequently used, from classical music to Philip Oakey’s and Giorgio Moroder Together in electric dreams, not just as a soundtrack for dance moves, but also to emphasize common themes and add to the atmosphere of melancholy and impending doom. The passing of time is measured through imagined events in Lesca’s and Voutsas’ future biographies, from marriage and divorce (to other people), the last time they see each other, health problems and cancer, concerts they go to, to the birth of their children and grandchildren, and so on. They keep realistic when it comes to prophesizing their fictional future, every achievement or spark of happiness is followed by a painful event or loss, just as life is often a mixture of both. A composition of text like this, with its highs and lows, and with Lesca and Voutsas hypnotically hopping in circles, creates the dynamics in what would otherwise be a list of dry facts shared on the screen. The combination of content and this peculiar, dynamic and often humorous style is what keeps us engaged and caring about their story even after the end of the performance. It is easy to relate to their destinies, and, as a side effect, it’s not at all easy to emotionally participate in the here-and-now of their reality, knowing, as the narrative on the screen suggests, they will eventually grow apart and lead separate lives. The dance is almost a tool used to lure us into a lovely illusion, while the background narrative on the screen defies this illusory reality with numbers, warnings, count-down, and pessimistic predictions. The realization that none of the predicted events have come to pass yet, and there is time still to positively affect our planet, our future, and our relationships comes as an optimistic relief. As the end of the presentation reminds us, But right now we are here.

AUTHOR: Ajla Medanhodzic