Edinburgh International Festival: Histoire d’Amour

Teatro Cinema’s Histoire d’amour is no easy piece to write about, nor is it an easy piece to watch. After the novel by Regis Jauffret, a man falls in love with a woman on the subway and precedes to attempt to get her into his life, through any means possible. At first he rapes her, and is sent to prison but released after she drops charges. He then proceeds to stalk her, rape her repeatedly and force her into a relationship. Jauffret’s novel is shocking and disturbing, and really angered me when it was presented on the stage. The reason is simple: at no point does Jauffret give this female character any resistance, any fight or even the opportunity to stand up for herself. She continually, against her wishes, must submit to this dominating man, whose thirst for her drives him to shocking actions. It’s a repulsive piece of work.

Seeing this story portrayed in Teatro Cinema’s Histoire d’amour is extremely difficult. It’s fair to say I wanted to shout and scream at the stage for all of this oppression to stop, to leave the woman alone. But we don’t do this. We just sit and watch. I just wish that someone, anyone, had the guts to stand up against this story, but that’s not the point of piece; it is, after all, a story, and should be treated as one, however difficult it is to watch.

Looking beyond the story there is no denying the skill and wonderful amazement of Teatro Cinema’s visual storytelling. Using animation and a comic-book style of presentation, Histoire d’amour is breathtaking to watch. Like the work of 1927 (the only UK-based company I can compare the work to), the actors simultaneous appear within the computer-generated world whilst also being present on the stage. The projections are seamless, as is the direction of Julian Marras and Bernardita Montero. The various angles that shift the perspective of the work means there is a constant negotiation of space, both for the performers but also within the set and projection. At no point do you stop believing in the world that is being created.

Visually, you can’t fault the work. It is breathtaking, and the best use of animation and projection work I’ve ever seen in the theatre. The attention to detail and the comic-book style artwork are inspiring, which is why the subject matter of the story is so challenging and difficult to digest. On the one hand the work is truly inspired, but in celebrating it, I feel deeply uncomfortable. Masters of visual theatre Teatro Cinema may be, but I feel resentful of a company willing to portray a story that puts a woman helpless at the centre of their work without at least offering moral perspective. Visually wonderful, but disturbing in the story it tells.

Originally published on A Younger Theatre.