EdFringe 2022 Review: (le) Pain

JD Broussé has made a name for himself as part of acro duo Nikki & JD, but now Jean-Daniel Broussé leads his first solo show. Blending a mix of baking, acrobatics, dance, music and comedy, JD examines the struggles of falling into a pre-determined familial destiny or pursuing one’s own passions and dreams.

JD is the son of a French baker, expected to fall into the family business in his rural hometown, but JD, a circus queer artist and intolerant to patriarchy, is not a baker. Examining expectations and breaking free from our confines, (le) Pain combines a plethora of artistic styles to capture JD’s experiences and musings.

JD opens (le) Pain with a traditionally French accordion number, set to footage of his provincial hometown, later sharing that accordion playing is the DNA of the French. Focus shifts as JD begins the process of making fresh bread, speaking to the audience and beginning to construct the metaphors that permeate throughout this hybrid show. There are gymnastic and acrobatic movement as JD spins, flips and handstands on his flour covered workbench, whilst the smell of baking bread begins to sift through the audience.

The main metaphor coursing throughout (le) Pain can be found in its title – a reference to the French word for bread and the English word for suffering. Yet the metaphors do not stop there, JD comments on the curious structure of the show often reassuring us that it will all tie together. Dough is a mouldable and versatile, requiring nurturing to strive – something JD explores in some alternative dance, wrapped in a white sheet and capturing the growth process of baking dough.

The performer fills (le) Pain with home video footage capturing his relationship with his parents and the inner workings of JD’s expected boulangerie future – this is a neat personal touch, whilst also capturing JD’s parents’ own frustrations with the lifestyle their career invokes, highlighted in a rendition of his mother’s song titled ‘Fuck This Shitty Life’ – later the source of a sing-a-long moment.

JD makes allusions to his queerness throughout – never outrightly exploring how it contrasted with his expected life in rural France – yet we can pick this up in small moments throughout. A cathartic dance routine to Prince’s I Would Die 4 U is an impressive piece – accompanied by two neon backing dancers on the projected screen behind the Frenchman. Further queer catharsis is explored in a moment which sees JD strip naked, accompanied by video footage rising dough and a similarly rising male penis.

Whether (le) Pain’s scatterings of ideas quite come together as seamlessly as you might hope is up for debate, yet JD is an impressive stage presence packing a rawness and lack of polish which works in his favour. He is likeable and charming and this shines through in the heart of (le) Pain, investing us in his unconventional journey.

(le) Pain runs at the Assembly Roxy.

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