Maria Addolorata (4 stars)

This article is from 2014

Maria Addolorata

credit: Alex Brenner

Dance piece from Chiara Taviani and Carlo Massari finding beauty and humour in pain

It seems shocking when laid bare on paper, but on the stage it's been true for millennia: pain can be funny. Hilarious. Some of the time. And it's that last quantifier that makes the difference between Chiara Taviani and Carlo Massari's sparky, clever and often bonkers dance show, and the simpler realms of comic clowning.

To describe their opening trick would be to give away one of the best bits, but it does neatly summarise the nature of the performance, enticing us to giggle before whipping that comfort swiftly away.

What follows is filled with suffering – gestures, icons, images – but the piece shifts tempo so subtly and surreally that it is sometimes impossible to trust your instincts on what the correct response is. Massari leaving Taviani whimpering in an uncomfortable pose while he cracks open a beer draws laughs; throwing himself repeatedly at the floor feels banana-skin slapstick the first few times but quickly echoes the trauma of a caged animal.

The suppleness and quickness of the choreography keeps the dance moving at pitch-perfect pace, snapping one idea away before it dries up and flashing onto another – and for all their slapping and hurling Massari and Taviani trust each other like a third limb.

But Maria Addolorata isn't just about the whipcrack firing of ideas. Based on Catholic iconography, some passages ripple with gorgeous sensuality. As the pair stretch slow-mo into a pieta, the tension in their bodies hints at pain's erotic qualities. The religious imagery hits its feverish climax in a startling final scene. When Taviani bends to take a bloodstained kiss from the fallen Massari the first time she lifts her head it looks as if she is wearing glamorous lipstick; the second time, as if she has been feasting on prey.

Summerhall, 0845 874 3001, until 24 Aug, 6.40pm, £10 (£8).

Maria Addolorata

  • 4 stars

Dance theatre on a theme of suffering.