Jonathon Young and Crystal Pite plumb the state of shock that follows tragedy in Betroffenheit.

In 2009, Jonathon Young’s 14-year-old daughter Azra and two of her cousins died in a fire in a holiday cabin. Young, who was staying in the main house, heard the fire and tried to break into the cabin but it was too late.

His experience in the aftermath of the tragedy was the inspiration for a dance-theatre work called Betroffenheit, which premiered in Toronto in 2015. After acclaimed seasons in Canada, the US and the UK, where The Guardianhailed it as addressing “the experience of human suffering with raw and heroic brilliance,” it is coming to the Perth and Adelaide Festivals.

Betroffenheit. Photo by Michael Slobodian

Talking to Young on the phone from Vancouver, it feels impossible to discuss the piece without first offering commiserations for his unimaginable loss, yet the words feel woefully inadequate. Young is very understanding.

“I know it’s a tricky thing to discuss in an interview to preview a performance, but I’ve come to accept the fact that having undertaken this project, that’s just part of the discussion now,” he says....