Bertrand Lesca (Bert and Nasi) – The Exhausted Bodies

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Bertrand Lesca is a theatre maker from France. After studying at Warwick University, he went on to assist Peter Brook and Declan Donnellan on several international tours. Bertrand currently works with Nasi Voutsas (Bert and Nasi) with whom he co-created the trilogy EUROHOUSE, PALMYRA and ONE.

The Exhausted Bodies

Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas in Palmyra. Photo by Alex Brenner

PC: Why is dance important in your work?

BL: I think it’s about endurance, it’s about enduring bodies on stage, this sense of seeing bodies being strained and really pushed to the limit. We connect to this idea of what could be political. We really like when the audience feels our exhaustion because when they see exhausted bodies on stage it brings it into the room, here and now. They see actors genuinely getting exhausted, there’s something real that happens. For example, in Eurohouse, Nasi dances to Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac and he keeps asking throughout the show for this song to be played and I keep refusing. He puts it on several times, but I keep stopping it until, eventually, he starts doing the dance and I allow it. It’s just a very free thing that happens for maybe two and a half minutes and he really goes for it: he bangs his feet against the floor and shouts. It’s something really quite big and impressive but also captures the absolute desolation and desperate nature of what we saw in Greece. Dance was the best way that we could express that feeling.

What we’d seen in Greece was so sad and desperate, but at the same time there was this thing that they keep going and they keep fighting and they keep protesting, for us, that was best represented by Nasi having a proper celebratory dance where he gets exhausted. But then I start taking over again, stopping the music and asking him to do it again, to the point where he gets exhausted even more and it shifts the dynamic.

PC: Why is it important for the audience to see your exhaustion?

BL: It generates empathy. So, we’re deliberately trying not to be too good at dancing. We want it to be a bit silly or ridiculous and that creates an empathy. If we mastered it to the point where it seemed effortless there wouldn’t be that empathy. So, for us, it’s important that the spectators get to see the effort. The audience could very easily feel distant from the piece if they didn’t see the error or the failure.

PC: How do you manipulate and control time and space towards the end of the process?

BL: It’s very hard to describe, I think it comes down to timing: comic timing. Every time we do it in front of an audience should feel like it’s the first time. The moments when we stop or if we don’t say anything, creates a climate of uncertainty and this uncertainty really helps to draw the audience in: What’s happening? Why is this person not saying anything? Why are they stopping? Is there a problem?

There’s a moment when people are laughing and then it stops. At that point onwards we work towards ensuring people don’t laugh because we want people to be horrified by what’s happening. For example, in Palmyra, there’s this scene where Nasi’s doing a dance with a hammer towards me, swinging it at me. People find it a little bit funny as he does it faster and harder, and then they stop finding it funny and it becomes quite a violent thing. People are confronted with the reality of the situation when it stops being funny. We’re saying that it’s more than just a funny image, this violence that you see is actually very real.

Read the full interview here.

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