This is the second instalment of Italian company C&C’s Trilogy of Pain. Where last year’s Maria Addolorata looked at physical agony, this time around the trauma of doomed love—loosely, Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde—is the stimulus to the duo’s idiosyncratic response.
It’s a mistier piece than brassy Maria, not just because of the litres of smoke lingering onstage, or the acres of hemp hair used as a tragic blonde motif, but also in the palette of colours and the fuzziness (sometimes literally) of the imagery. We have to work hard to earn our connection with Tristissimo, but it is worth it.
The opening is a powerful vision of western heroism: two nudes, earthy and godlike, posturing to the skies. At first seemingly ancient, the image becomes recalibrated into something from the future as the pair reverse themselves into modern clothing, and become contemporary lovers caught in a tangle of shyness, lust and hurt.
There is some stunning partnering here, the two dancers in exquisite harmony with each other, and with the score. Wagner’s roaring climaxes are matched with slow backbends; doom is foreshadowed with uneasy gesture. Part of C&C’s appeal is the surprise factor of their images, so it would be imprudent to give too much away. But expect pop culture references and classical tableaux – most of all expect to make whatever you want from it.
For a show about one of life’s most powerful emotions, Tristissimo is cerebral, but C&C are brave in making original sense of their subject, and in their determination not to frown in the face of sorrow.