Edinburgh Fringe 2012
Behsat Ahmet makes his debut at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with his one man show Breathless – A Dramatic Cantata. Set in an anonymous rehearsal studio, Breathless is a dark comedy about a singer’s meltdown during a dress rehearsal for his forthcoming concert recital.
We enter to discover Ahmet is already on stage. Eerily clad like a statuesque Count Dracula in a lengthy black cape waiting to toy with Jonathan Harker’s mind. A cursory introduction and Ahmet is out of the starting gates, already at full gallop. His semi-autobiographical protagonist is a singer spiraling into spiritual meltdown. This is explored variously through song, speech, and movement. The central narrative of Breathless is not always easy to follow, sometimes this show is downright odd, but it is so personal, so true, that as a whole it is a very successful hour.
Baroque, electronica, trip hop, and lieder mirrors are used with varying degrees of success to illuminate a strong interplay of light and dark. The show is entirely successful in showcasing a fresh talent crying out for a more comprehensible format. The piano accompaniment throughout is extremely well polished. Ahmet does a disservice to his pianist by not better introducing him and recognising his contribution to the show during the curtain call. Lights and sound are spot on (a warning regarding the use of strobe lighting is in order). This is a hugely atmospheric piece close, confined, unsettling. Ahmet throws himself, body and soul, into this production and it shows.
Breathless is not a rational disquisition on the effects of struggle and loss. Neither is it a well articulated cultural or sociological discussion. It is rather the distillation of raw emotion – there is not a stiff-upper lip insight. Ahmet has launched himself onto the Fringe with one of the most out there productions of the season. It is a highly mannered and exquisitely rehearsed piece of theatre yet it feels spontaneous and very unpretentious.
Breathless: A Dramatic Cantata is a marmite experience, you either love it or you hate it. I loved it but I didn’t always understand it. It’s a show that pirouettes across cultural and social boundaries. We are left with the sense of an artist who has experienced profound personal losses and of the scars these have left. It is not always a comfortable experience but few shows can hold a candle to Breathless’ combination of energy and power to captivate.