Views from the Gods – Pathos review

by VIEWS FROM THE GODS

The Mimetic Festival has seen a lot of mime and dark theatre, but perhaps none so shocking as Teatro in Centro’s multimedia production Pathos. It opens with images of newspaper headlines in different languages, all referring to people killed by their partners.

Director Ester Montalto has written Pathos together with Marga Domenech, a psychologist, which perhaps gives you an insight into what the company have tried to do. Montalto and Domenech tackle the question “Can you kill for love?” by exploring the darker aspects of human relationships. Initially performers Massimiliano Angioni and Fransceco Saitta are presented as children, innocently play-fighting with the other, then in a sudden fit of jealousy, the girl (Angioni) takes her puppet replacement and brutally attacks it, whilst the boy (Saitta) watches in horror.

The humour arises from the unexpected violence from a little girl (admittedly, a little girl played by a man in pigtails kneeling down), and the fact that it’s only a prop being attacked. However, this isn’t a Tom and Jerry style joke, it sets the tone for the darkness to follow. The actors became adults and switch genders, with a man (Angioni) and woman (Saitta) presented to us on a destructive spiral. Innocent – and less innocent – gazes at other people fuel the fire.

The two performers dress in black, using white masks to rid them of their original genders. In the final scene, it becomes apparent that the company could have used an actress for the female role had they wanted to, but the two men are capable of switching sexes easily, making this unnecessary. The full masks used for the majority of scenes are not gender specific, so Angioni and Saitta use movement to carve out different identities: the way they stand, even the way they fidget – their physicality creates different people.

As we move through the production, the different aspects of relationships are signposted using projection and whilst this seems clever to us at first, there does come a point where it only underlines the show’s repetitiveness. The physical theatre and clowning are both skilful, but sometimes the sequences drag on too long, and have lulls, with Montalto not keeping the action as tight as it needs to be.

There’s also an odd scene towards the end where the woman flirts with the audience much to the man’s horror and sadness, with Angioni donning a variety of voices and accents to take us through the different countries. The squeaks and kissing noises made by the performers generally hint at Italian protagonists, but Angioni’s grunts and cries become English, Japanese, German and French – and the illusion of mime crumbles as actual words slip out. He swears heavily in English, he bemoans the woman stamping on his heart in French.

Presumably this is meant to show how relationships are ultimately driven from the same urges in no matter what country, but the scene depicts the woman as a selfish manipulator, who probably deserves whatever is coming to her. Given she is meant to represent women rather than just one person, it feels a little uncomfortable.

Pathos is certainly visceral and thought-provoking – as the play progresses, you find yourself horrified for laughing earlier on. It closes with the conclusion “yes, you can kill for love”, and that prompts a whole host of strong reactions, mainly along the veins of “are you serious?” For the company’s controversial findings to be true, the brutality we see must be defined as a kind of love, and whilst there is passion in it, can violence ever go hand in hand with love?

The company say yes, but for me, the answer is no. Can you kill for love? No, but you can kill as an act of abuse. I’m also left feeling uneasy by how it’s always the woman who is the target in every scene, when this is a company which has proven it can reverse genders on a whim. Does this piece legitimise domestic violence? Does it? I’m not sure I can or want to answer that, but it certainly doesn’t do anything to speak out against the issue.

Teatro in Centro succeed in bringing out strong reactions from their audience, but perhaps they need to be more careful as to the image they are presenting of themselves on a worldwide stage. There’s talent there, but it needs to be better utilised.

 

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