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Review of ONE at Battersea Arts Centre

OneThe opening announcement that the “performance will be relaxed” and that audience members are free to move about immediately sets the tone involving a certain brand of theatre from performance-duo Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas.

Theatregoers familiar with their work, particularly Palmyra and Eurohouse, that form a trilogy of politically engaged two-handers with ONE, will recognise the mutual antagonism between the pair, the deadpan wit, skilled improvisation and interaction with the audience, and rapidly increasing brutality.

The performance piece opens with Lesca trying to persuade Voutsas to come down from a ladder – a simple tableaux for the diametrically opposed positions they embody. When Lesca’s polite requests, blandishments, and Gallic charisma fail to tempt Voutsas down, he resorts to threats, emotional blackmail, and open violence.

The infantile bickering and undisguised aggression makes ONE an apt political allegory for 21st century British politics, especially considering the recent fractious and hostile state of the House of Commons as the Brexit deadline approaches at the end of October. Particularly telling is how quickly Lesca’s veneer of civility is removed, with his attempted bullying of Voutsas being more chilling thank the greater frankness of his stage partner.

The manner in which Lesca gradually attempts to make the audience complicit in the goading and emotional intimidation of Voutsas is also highly dramatically effective, forcing them to question their own moral positions when he later threatens Nasi with violence, questions his sexuality, and promises to spy on his every action and thought.

ONE, then, is a searingly funny and brutal exploration of contemporary politics and the intractable and childish behaviour of people who should know better. Voutsas’s simple statement “I’m tired,” echoes, no doubt, the feelings of many UK voters, as does his simple question: “What are we doing?

The play is a hilarious and highly engaging piece of theatre that shows the maturity and dexterity of Lesca and Voutsas’s craft, ending in a priceless comic coup de grace. A must see.

5 Star Rating

Review by Ben Miller

ONE begins amid the ruins of unresolved conflict. Nasi’s on a ladder. He’s not coming down any time soon. Bert
asks the audience to help. Nasi says, “It’s a No from me.” Locked in a deadpan double-act and a divided world,
Bert and Nasi are looking for a way to be together. But they get distracted by squabbles, insults, tap-dancing
and one-upmanship. Both about the polarisation of contemporary politics and about a toxic relationship that
needs fixing, ONE flips between humour and brutality.

Company information
Created and performed by Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas
Dramaturg Louise Stephens
Technician Ruth Green
Produced by Edward Fortes & Hannah Slimmon for Farnham Maltings
Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, London, SW11 5TN
https://www.bac.org.uk/

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