Sometimes ‘atmospheric’ isn’t enough. Or ‘strange’. Plenty of things are ‘strange’ or ‘atmospheric’, but the latest work by Peter Miloshevski is so singular in its mode of expression that it takes time for your eyes and ears to become accustomed, and has an atmosphere that could give you the bends.
LOVE takes its inspiration from the case of Armin Meiwes, the man who sprang to international infamy when he advertised for, murdered and consumed a voluntary victim in the spring of 2001. But Miloshevski isn’t concerned with the grimy details, he’s aiming for the furious, yearning heart of the matter. LOVE is the story of twin passions, both obscene but both capable of beauty too, if only in their absolute sincerity and the mockery they make of everyday affections.
Miloshevski plays both characters in turn, the killer and the victim, the chef and the meat, or just the lover and the lover. His text is a patchwork of De Sade, Nabokov, Vasko Popa and his own writings, delivered as lurching prose poems and odd broken whisperings. The effect is disorientating, but moving, impossibly intense emotions gradually accrete from the over-full-ness of the text.
This sense of excess, of dense richness, carries over into Miloshevski’s physical work. Moments of gibbering mania burst out against cacophonous strings, others are poised and fragile, like the ghost of some fragile Quentin Crisp. There’s a sense of oppressive aestheticism that’s entirely appropriate to a relationship which fetishizes the flesh and the bodily to such an extreme extent. There are traces of the gothic and of a fin de siècle degeneration – Miloshevski has transformed the story into the À rebours of anthropophagy. One man’s jewelled tortoise is another’s cranial ashtray, I guess.
There are no judgements in LOVE, apart from a brief glimpse of tittle-tattling neighbours, and a brief conversation about bone disposal which seems more tumescent than anything else, the two lovers are allowed to exist entirely within their own world. Politics and morality are kept well out of the equation, everything is teeth and blood and mutual indulgence.
It’s true that Miloshevski’s idiosyncratic physical language takes some getting used to, and the paroxysms he throws himself into can occasionally teeter dangerously close to the absurd, but there’s also a sense that this is something he is aware and in control of. The bouffon is never entirely absent from his back-breaking spasms, there is a definite challenge being thrown out to his audience.
There is also a danger of a work that is so singular in its purpose alienating its audience or drifting into obscurity, but the simple use of a double-sided dressing gown, gorgeously constructed by Antonella Petraccaro, keeps the characters distinct, and adds a particularly gruesome implication of flaying to the transformations.
Apart from that costume, the rest of the production has been created by Miloshevski alone, and this leads to a sense of wholeness and clarity of purpose which explains so much of the piece’s oddness, as well as its strength. It is its own ghastly consummation, a grisly love poem from the outer fringe of human expression and compassion.