A show within a show, Betroffenheit explores the surrealist nature of trauma overlapped with addiction. The ‘Showtime’ layer of Betroffenheit explores substance abuse, a force both dangerous and destructive. When asked whether it is important to know the nature of the original trauma that lead to the creation of the show Pite (also co-creator and director) says that it is not, and that she and Young (also co-creator and lead performer) wanted to avoid that. “Jonathon didn’t want the piece to be too self-referential but more universal.”
“The process of creating the show was joyful but difficult,” says Pite. Though the subject matter is emotional “the act of creation is joyful because you are earnest, open, and curious,” she elaborates. “Jonathon is brilliant and full of light and we just followed his lead. The stakes were high and I care immensely about this project,” she exclaims, visibly moved with the profundity of the statement.
The show opens with a surreal, dream-like sequence that introduces us to the main character as he struggles to comprehend the series of events that has distorted his cognitive ability and sent him spiraling down into in the shelter of an internal “room.” We travel with him as he ruptures first into two, then six pieces of himself, all grasping and desperately clinging to their portion of his psyche. Sound design functions as a character unto itself fleshing out the protagonist and connecting him to the external world. The precision and repetition of the dance sequences work like words within the dialogue to expand our protagonist’s thought process. “It’s not working,” he exclaims as he desperately tries to fit the pieces together. There is no rationale, no slotting of logic into an assemblage of comprehension. He is at sea in an escalating emotional storm, in a life raft with a slow, steady leak.
The recognition of trauma builds as our protagonist grows but it is not without humour, satire as a tool of transition and dramatic impact. Laughter breaks open a window in the grief for the audience to take a fresh breath of air then spins them on their heels into gut-wrenching dialogue of desperation, agony, and unfathomable sorrow.
As our protagonist grows the “room” becomes a flexible place of existence, a place from which he is eventually able to emerge. He is disjointed and unstable but manages to keep the elements of self from snapping apart. It is here he remains as his journey continues.
We are left with the impression it is not about acknowledging or accepting. Nor is it about moving on, getting over or past an event. Instead, it is about finding that place where everything can somehow exist together, for these events, these people, will always be with us. They are in everything we see, everything we do, and everything we are.
To find out more about Betroffenheit, click HERE.