It shouldn’t work. The plot is a mash of soap opera twists and romantic comedy naïveté. Yet, all the same, Mathilde Moulinat and Nicolas Taffin make Pigments, now on stage in Avignon Off’s Condition Des Soies, a charming and intimate exploration of redemption.
On the anniversary of their relationship artist Chloé welcomes her fiancé Nicolas into her apartment. Nicolas is a neurologist who is enamored but not exactly fluent in Chloé’s artistic passion. He steadfastly refuses to pose nude for her. Later in the apartment, as Cholé is getting dressed, Nicolas unwittingly reads a text to Chloé. “How long?” he asks. “Three months.” She responds. Their relationship is over. Then Cholé gets in an accident and has amnesia. The rest of the play follows neurologist Nicolas’s attempt to bring Chloé back to her memory. He, of course, doesn’t approach the truth of their pre-accident relationship until they are deep in memory therapy.
The play has plot holes that tractor trailers might find generous. It is clear we’re in the age of social media (she has a pink cellphone) so how does she have no apparent social footprints to follow and reconnect with what must have been an active community? It also seems unimaginable to me that such intense memory loss wouldn’t have an intensive mandated therapy system. With her past four years erased daily actions could be added to the tasks of Hercules. “How did you know the code to get in?” Chloé demands of Nicolas. “How did you?” might have been a fair response. Though, the play smartly never placates our rationale. It neither expands to the theoretical universe of memory nor undermines its own sincerity with ironic absurdity. Instead the emotions and actions of these lovers are couched in the play’s rich intimacy.
In moments of quiet we see the gears turning in the heads of the characters. In moments of passion, we are witness to the joy, the hurt and the fear that fuels their expression. Playwright Nicolas Taffin’s script is full of quips and barbs that both delight us and endear us to the characters and their chemistry. It takes bravery to take the circumstances of Pigments seriously. Thankfully he and Moulinat, in collaboration with director Elodie Wallace, have such courage. Music by Diane Poitrenaud sets the mood in joy and hope. Diane Coquard’s set manages the limitations of the Avignon Off beautifully. It gives the actors a reality to fill and the director theatricality to exploit. Pigments is an innocent take on romance. It’s the kind of love story we would have enjoyed to watch in adolescence and one that can supply joy today.
PIGMENTS is at the theatre Condition des Soies at 17:20