PIAF: Betroffenheit

PIAF Betroffenheit - photo by Wendy DNever before has a show disturbed, frightened and entranced me more than Betroffenheit. A contemporary exploration of addiction, depression and trauma, written and performed by Jonathon Young, Betroffenheit is confronting, intimate and one of the best theatre experiences of my life.

As an audience member, I was completely overwhelmed by the struggle, pain and tragedy depicted onstage. From further research, this was no accident. Somewhat autobiographical, Jonathan Young took inspiration from the death of his daughter and nieces in a terrible fire in 2009. Launching into his writing, Betroffenheit was born.

When the first curtain fell and the audience broke into applause, I sat in darkness, my jaw slack, my eyes unblinking, not only begging for answers, but a second act. Thankfully, my prayers were answered with a blessed interval. As I sat, mesmerised by the abrupt, mechanical movements and the effortlessly flowing dance sequences, I struggled to find a phrase that could match what I was seeing.

The only word that came close, was polyphonic. Particularly during the second act, the eye is drawn to one performer, whilst five other sequences take place. At times, it can be overwhelming, which adds to the overall sense of agoraphobia. It’s almost as if you need three viewings to take everything in.

To focus on an individual’s merits in the production would be an insult to its intent, for Betroffenheit is first and foremost, an ensemble piece. Each performer brings their own distinct flair to the piece, of which the show would struggle without. The Canadian dance troupe delivers inspiring, shocking and riveting performances, trapping the audience in a Groundhog Day of haunting past events.

Repetition of choreography is employed throughout the piece, with a darker twist on each return. The second half uses this most frequently, and is almost entirely movement based, with few words spoken.

Betroffenheit bridges the gap between reality and fiction. Throughout, the audience finds themselves questioning the nature of the protagonists’ journey, the setting, the era. Every portion of this show is open to interpretation, which can make for an intoxicatingly fascinating production.

Betroffenheit is the stuff of nightmares, in the most complementary way possible. Eerie, twisted and downright unnerving, this is a must-see show.

Heath Ledger Theatre – State Theatre Centre of WA, William Street, Perth
Performance: Friday 24 February 2017 – 7.30pm
Season: 23 – 26 February 2017
Information and Bookings: www.perthfestival.com.au

Dunstan Playhouse – Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Season: 3 – 4 March 2017
Information and Bookings: www.adelaidefestival.com.au (sold out)

Image: Betroffenheit – photo by Wendy D

Review: Peri Watson