Dance Base, Edinburgh, UK; August 21, 2014

David Mead

Cesare Benedetti (standing) and  Riccardo Olivier in 'iLove'. Photo © Veronica Billi, courtesy Fattoria Vittadini

Cesare Benedetti (standing) and Riccardo Olivier in ‘iLove’.
Photo © Veronica Billi, courtesy Fattoria Vittadini

“Love is like a journey by train. You lose each other, then you meet again.”

Producer Fattoria Vittadini, and dancers Ceasare Benedetti and Riccardo Olivier, created “iLove” when the two men were a couple. Then they split up. But they continued to work together and, as they say in the programme, rediscover and understand themselves, their mistakes, and their limits. The result is a fine, stylish and often touching duet on the theme of individuality and male love.

“iLove” opens where we are now. The couple are on stage, but apart and in the shadows. They have split up. Centre stage, under a single spotlight, is a fennel. Benedetti picks it up. “Actually, the fruit of sin is not an apple, but a fennel” we are told (in Italian, ‘un finocchio’ – a fennel – is a derogatory term for a gay man).

A brief section is full of ‘don’t come near me’ gestures as one approaches the other, but then the piece rewinds to happier times as it starts to tell their story. We see their arguments and disagreements. There are lots of glances – to the audience as well as at each other – as one persuades the other to do something that perhaps they do not really like. And yet, they always go along with each other, surrendering some element of individuality in favour of the other. Their true feelings are always plain. Love may occasionally get buried, but it’s never far from the surface.

Personality doesn’t just show, it radiates dramatically through the whole piece. You never want to take your eyes of the two performers. There’s a great playful yet caring duet packed with lots of floorwork, sliding and falling as they cover every inch of the stage. In their jeans and hoodies they look like everyday guys having a good time. From the song “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day”, we hear “You and me were meant to be walking free in harmony” in the song lyrics, yet references to “One day we’ll fly away” hint at things to come.

In a humorous moment of sharing, the vegetable gets eaten, with a microphone upclose, making the crunching of its flesh loudly audible. As the men strip to their underwear, there’s a sense they are saying that dress is only part of who we are. The real person is inside.

And yet, slowly, there’s a sense of moving apart as the choreography increasingly features pushing away, walking away. There’s a sense that it’s Benedetti who is walking away from the relationship as Olivier becomes very clingy, often quite literally hanging on to his partner.

The parting is rather poignant and rather sad. There’s no bad words, no bad feeling, just a sense of sorrow at the sadness yet perhaps also the inevitability of it. Again the words of the song we hear (“Nobody home”) say it all:

I’ve got a strong urge to fly
But I’ve got nowhere to fly to
Ooooh Babe when I pick up the phone
There’s still nobody home

Only, of course, they did stay together professionally, and thank goodness for that. “iLove” is packed with great dance, cleverly chosen music, neatly timed comedy, and perhaps more than anything, honesty. The curtain call is pretty good too.

All in all, a ravishing, great piece.