Betroffenheit Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London EC1 4/5
BETROFFENHEIT, co-devised by choreographer Crystal Pite and actor Jonathan Young, mines personal trauma and the subsequent disturbance giving rise to an altered state of dependency as its subject matter.
The production is a delirious experience, with a “show-time” of acts jacked-up by post-shock delirium.
Young, the cracked-actor and dancer, reveals his anguish as a parent struggling to come to terms with having tried to save his only child who died in a cabin fire during a family holiday.
Pite’s choreography intervenes when Young’s words fail to communicate and the expressionistic dance and gesture complement the verbal psychobabble he endures during treatment and recovery.
Young’s disorientation, split personalities and misappropriation of the senses involve confrontations in a dark place within himself as a crisis mismanagement team treats him as victim and plaything.
Thus, he interacts with ashen-faced tragi-clown Tiffany Tregarthen, TV host Jermaine Spivey, high on canned laughter, objects that speak, toxic calypso kids Cindy Salgado and Bryan Arias and a wickedly fast tap dancer David Raymond who just can’t stop beating the floor.
In the first half, there’s a sense of astonishment at Young’s abilities in performing such a profoundly personal work and at the interplay between live and pre-recorded voice when, in exact lip-synch, he uses his body to illustrate the experiences of self-destruction and near-death.
After the interval, the lyrical thematic reprise, where pure dance expression takes hold, is something of a welcome relief.