Made in response to the Brazilian floods of recent years, Sao Paulo based circus/visual/physical theatre company ParaladosanjoS have crafted a disorientating and affecting attempt to capture the material and human cost of ‘natural’ disasters. The harrowing toll includes the floods which the company members experienced personally in their home town of Campinas, Sao Paulo; the floods which killed over 900 people in upstate Rio de Janeiro in 2011; and last year’s toxic mudslide in Mariana, Minas Gerais.
Composed of four different sections, each directed by a different director, Molhados&Secos opens as a poetic evocation of the stillness of fountains, before quickly sliding into more visceral territory. Over the course of the work a series of fragmented stories gradually begin to coalesce – not into a single linear experience, but rather into glimpses of fractured moments, focused mostly on the moment a couple attempts to rescue their possessions and escape from the flood.
The fragments of these terrifying moments are repeated, deconstructed, eroded, and added to – each time teasing out the sensations of powerlessness and horror in the face of the flood, as if the characters can somehow, by replaying each moment, resist the rising torrent of water and silt. This is where the piece is at its strongest, in the way that it skilfully captures the disorienting and amplifying effect of being struck by the force of nature, in the embodiment of the chaos and impotent rage against what mere water can take away. This is most literally staged in a tumbling and ultimately deadly aerial sequence, in which one man tries to save his lover. Here, the disorientating sensation of being under water is skilfully conveyed – and it is possible to feel the burning of their lungs as they slowly run out of air.
But as well as the struggle against nature, there are also the struggles that humans visit upon each other, as the characters recount how those whose homes had been flooded placed their furniture and belongings outside to avoid the water rising from their drains, only for their possessions to be stolen. In this moment it becomes clear that the piece is not just about humanity’s Sisyphean resistance in the face of natural disasters, but that we too might be one disaster away from darkness, and that we might not be able to count on all of our neighbours.