(le) Pain Without Pain

28 02 2022

Le Pain Photo Chris Nash

Author: Gareth K Vile

Jean Daniel Broussé’s (le) Pain introduces a witty, charismatic performance in a solo show that incorporates live bread-making, circus acrobatics, dance, film and broad comedy to tell an autobiographical story with a more or less happy resolution. Broussé family has owned a bakery, but his ambitions call him to performance and, in under an hour, Broussé considers the pull of his messianic ambitions against the melancholy of a father’s desire to see his child continue the family business. The episodic structure - dancing to Prince, demonstrating skills, explaining the deeper meanings of the baking process and enjoying a playful, seductive conversation with the audience - promises an intriguing reflection on competing destinies, but ultimately remains an amiable yet shallow commentary on one artist’s personal growth.

Broussé takes great pleasure in word-play and begins with an etymological question and then, a familiar joke about a baker ‘kneading’ a poo. Yet in drawing out tantalising connections - between his father’s subsequent career caring for pilgrims, the artist as a priest or Christ, and the ‘rising’ of bread, erections and Jesus, or across the diverse theatrical styles presented in the performance - the focus flutters to and from Broussé’s powerful presence. Ending with a mock communion, (le) Pain makes suggestive allusions towards the function of theatre as a community event, and even a parallel between the baker and performer, but these threads are left hanging, allusive rather than investigative.

The performance is held together by the performer’s self-deprecating humour, cheeky wit and the sudden intrusion of spectacular acrobatics. Despite the large themes of self-determination, family conflict and acceptance, (le) Pain is entertaining rather than provocative: it is as if Broussé shies away from too much seriousness, preferring to burlesque any profound implications. Seductive and funny, (le) Pain contains depths that are ultimately hidden.