Review: Intense verbal assaults bring to life ugly marriage break-up
Clôture de l'amour, Samuel Beckett Theatre, Dublin
A bare white stage, brightly lit with white light, contains a man and woman. In French, with projected suptitles, we witness a marriage breaking up, the actual moment of sundering.
It is initiated by the man, and it has the raw and somewhat inarticulate quality of two people in the throes of angry, bitter trauma. They take it in turns to verbally destroy each other.
The first half of the show is Pascal (Pascal Rambert, also the writer/director) elaborately and angrily rejecting his partner. It is an attempt at annihilation. She says nothing.
Occasionally the verbal assault produces a physical reaction in her and her body winces or crumples. This goes on for almost an hour and is compelling and horrifying. The hyperrealism of the searching language and confusion add to its persuasiveness.
The intensity is broken by a kid's choir, who arrive into the theatre insisting they have booked the space for a rehearsal. They sing the Irish children's song 'Beidh Aonach Amárach' a couple of times. Somehow, they represent the couple's three children. This interlude functions as a kind of interval, a breathing space, but the audience does not leave.
Then Audrey (Audrey Bonnet) fights back, and the man receives her tirade wordlessly also.
She brings their love back to life, most vividly in her memory of the moment she knew that she wanted him to be the father of her children.
The two actors give astonishing performances. The piece has the dramatic character of a boxing match, where each antagonist gets a chance to throw punches at a passive recipient.
Equally matched, finally it is the man who ends up on the ropes.
Her finer grasp of the idea of love, including her submissive request for him not to leave, becomes an act of strength. It's a breath-taking display.