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“Betroffenheit” and justice on Vinyl Tap

I gather from friends who’ve emailed and sent messages via Twitter and FB that a letter I wrote to Randy Bachman was read during his Vinyl Tap show last night. I was out at a party but will listen tonight when the show airs again. In a show last fall, Randy talked about the Beatles as “John Lennon’s band,” and I could not let that pass. So I wrote to respectfully disagree, that it was the perfect balance of Macca and Lennon that made the band what it was, and apparently Randy, after reading my letter on air, said that he agreed. Yay! One more strike for justice in our land.

I have just come back from seeing a great work of art, and I don’t say that lightly, just as I do not often jump to my feet applauding wildly. But today I did. Betroffenheit is breathtaking. From the Globe review: 

Betroffenheit is a German word that doesn’t translate well. It means a sort of confluence of shock, speechlessness, emotional stasis and confusion. This sense of ineffability is at the crux of the play, which centres on a man (Young) in the grips of PTSD. He’s tortured by the memory of a horrific accident, reeling with loss, drowning in guilt. We’re catapulted into the disorder of his thoughts and feelings, which find external articulation in electronic sound, light, shadow and text.
One of the key refrains is the protagonist’s attempt to “come to terms” with the tragedy, and the play brilliantly interrogates the illusoriness and desperation of this pursuit. How can you come to something that exists in the past? What terms can possibly mitigate disaster?
The author and star of the play, Jonathon Young, lost his daughter and two of her cousins in a cabin fire; he was asleep nearby. The play, in a mixture of words and dance, explores shock and grief, drug addiction and guilt and at the end, with a slight lift, the music moving for once to a major chord, the dancer almost a kind of lightness, it offers for the first time a sense of hope. The dancing is extraordinary, five of the best dancers I’ve ever seen anywhere, the choreography by Crystal Pite brilliant. Stunning stunning stunning.
Emotionally intense and unsettling as it often is, this gripping and visually arresting production exemplifies what can happen when theatre and dance combine to achieve what neither could accomplish alone. And, given its provenance in the personal tragedy that changed Jonathon Young’s life forever, it stands as a testament to the redemptive power of art.

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2 Responses to ““Betroffenheit” and justice on Vinyl Tap”

  1. alandmillen says:

    Good going on all of the above. During my many years aa a German-to-English translator I often had to tackle "Betroffenheit" … a tough one to convey satisfactorily.

  2. beth says:

    Yes – too bad you couldn't just dance it, Alan.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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