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Review: One (Battersea Arts Centre)

Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas return for the final two-hander in their fraught trilogy

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
One
© The Other Richard

The third part of a trilogy is always the hardest part to get right – rounding off a series of themes and ideas in a satisfying, cathartic and fulfilling way. No one ever calls The Return of the Jedi the best Star Wars film. It's probably for the best, therefore, that Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas' One, the final instalment in their series of shows (started by Eurohouse and Palmyra) which now opens at Battersea Arts Centre, feels like a major departure from what came before.

Some things remain similar – Lesca's bare-faced cheekiness, matched with a wry smile and a twinkly eye, is still utterly at odds with his counterpart Voutsas' bearded, muted, melancholic expression, dulled and humourless. It's the constant contrast that makes the pair so captivating to watch.

The 70-minute show starts with Voutsas up a ladder. He won't budge, even after being told repeatedly to come down. Lesca is bemused, frustrated – he kicks the ladder, swearing at his performing partner. He starts dancing around by himself, hogging the microphone, unplugging Voutsas' access to the sound system. Eventually, Voutsas capitulates and begins to descend – a glimmer of hope that compromise may be possible after all.

Where Eurohouse and Palmyra were about the vicious dismemberment of a relationship, the most radical part about One is how sedate it feels. Aside from a select few outbursts, a bare bottom and Lesca's ladder attack, this is a slow, testy journey towards reaching accord rather than destroying it.

It'd be possible to slap a Brexit metaphor on top of everything if needed, but of the trilogy (which is being performed in full on 19 October) One feels the most ambiguous, its satirical edge traded for a more empathetic one. It's a show about relationships, in the room, between performer and performer or performer and audience. It's also blindingly funny, and with select few props and many protracted pauses, the duo gets a solid stream of laughs.

One ends on an oddly optimistic note, a detente via dance, that seems to inspire a sense of hope after a trilogy of hostility. Cathartic, in its own unique way.

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