Ovalhouse continues hosting some of the Edinburgh Fringe’s strongest transfers with Eurohouse – a playful exploration of the tensions and contradictions within the European Union. Two performers – Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas – loosely represent France and Greece (and more generally, the dominant and less-dominant powers within Europe) in a series of comic sequences which gradually descend into power play. Eurohouse is a subtle and subversive piece of political theatre, with a disarming lightness of touch with accumulates political bite.
It is difficult to articulate why Eurohouse is so fascinating, when the actual action onstage is so minimal. It was a question I asked myself multiple times, when watching Lesca and Voutsas skip around the stage to Kraftwerk’s “Europe Endless” in a parody of a gymnastics routine. Perhaps it is attributable to their utter ease with their audience – they begin by acknowledging their friends in the audience, before joining our hands together in a circle. We are told Lesca will be operating all of the tech within the show. We are told that this is not the beginning of the show, although this might feel like it. What they succeed in fostering within the Ovalhouse is a spirit of openness, and of generosity. We are not watching pretend people. Their optimism, and the childishness of their vision and of the stakes that they come to fight over, touches us more readily than issues of life and death in a weightier work. I don’t believe the question “You know those M&Ms I gave you earlier? Do you still have them with you?” has ever left such a deathly silence.
Of course, the action is staged, but the lines are blurred here more successfully than in the majority of “performance art / theatre” that I have seen. This might be because much of what is most viscerally flinch-inducing in Eurohouse is real – when Voutsas is near-collapse underneath Lesca he is (or seems) genuinely exhausted. And when Lesca presented Voutsas with a bucket to retch up his (apparently now forfeit) M&Ms, I squirmed.
It is a testament to the performers and to the piece that its squabbles hold our attention for so long – the incremental increase of the manipulative side to the performers’ relationship is handled expertly, alongside some sublime stupidity executed with extreme seriousness. However, with little else to distract us, the escalation of this relationship does plateau somewhat. Once Voutsas has left the stage, stripped and humiliated, it feels there is nowhere else for Eurohouse to go. It is here, with Lesca alone onstage, that the production drags somewhat.
Earlier, I compared the effectiveness of Eurohouse‘s lightness of touch and low stakes to the empty “life and death” struggles of serious drama. But despite Eurohouse’s irreverence, for citizens of Greece and other countries left devastated by Europe, its subject matter is an issue of life and death. Eurohouse closes with some sobering statistics, including the increased suicide rates about Greeks. Eurohouse shows FellSwoopTheatre creating work that engages with political questions with wit and intelligence. Lesca and Voutsas are collaborating on a new show, Palmyra, set to premiere in 2017. I have no doubt it will be something major.
Eurohouse runs at the Ovalhouse till the 29th April. Get tickets here.
Written and Performed by Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas