Review: Ta douleur

Sylvain Verstricht reviews Ta douleur, director Brigitte Haentjens’ new work for dancers Catherine Le Beau and Francis Ducharme as part of Danse-Cité.

TA DOULEUR: Never as great as mine
Photo by Nicolas Ruel

The problem with pain is that one’s is always felt, whereas that of others is merely seen. What I’m saying is this: one’s own smallest pain is felt more than the most extreme suffering of others.

It might be for this reason that director Brigitte Haentjens chose the second person for the title of the duet she choreographed for Anne Le Beau and Francis Ducharme, Ta douleur. Your pain… never as great as mine.

It’s the kind of detachment that each performer exhibits when confronted with the other’s suffering. The same could be said for this spectator. To be fair, Ta douleur gains self-awareness in its most humorous moments. Early in the show, after feeding into the melodramatic acting that constitutes the bulk of the performance, Le Beau and Ducharme purge all the platitudes we tell each other: “C’est pas facile, hein?”

For the most part however, Haentjens is interested in when the body is the object of such pain that it becomes unintelligible. The victim of an overabundance of emotion, it merely cries, trembles, convulses. It is but the physical appearance of pain, little more than a blocking of emotional states.

This is only enhanced by the decision to constantly fade in and out of black. This fragmentation prevents Haentjens from finding the links that would have made Ta douleur more choreographic. It is as though, without words, the woman who is more used to directing plays did not know how to make one scene flow into the next.

Despite its minimal story and movement, the pain explored here is concrete. Too concrete. It capitalizes on pain as violence. This might be an effort to make it theatrical, but it only ends up undermining itself by constantly striking the same loud note.

In the end, Ta douleur plays like other people’s pain: overly dramatic, blown out of proportion, easy to disregard. ■

Ta douleur is on at Théâtre La Chapelle (3700 Saint-Dominique), Sept. 18-22, 25-29 8 p.m., 30$/25$ students

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