Thursday, March 4, 2010

UNFINISHED PASSAGE, Created and Dir. by Fallis, Krucker and Strauss w. 3rd Year Class, Humber Theatre, 24.02.2010, Imperial Oil Opera Theatre

We should all be pretty darned grateful that this kind of actor training is happening in the Canadian theatre landscape. Eschewing the sometimes creatively restrictive emphasis on psychological realism that seems to characterize many if not most Canadian actor training institutions, this show is evidence of the Humber program's unapologetic embrace of non-figurative peformance styles that fuse dance, significant corporreal transformation, and quite stunning vocal work.

Unfinished Passage invites us into an evolving series of tableaux exploring the rich "weave of custom" that emerges from the experience of a multicultural city. Demands are made on our traditional ways of making sense of the stage: bodies work in concert to create rhythmical breathscapes that dilate beyond the individual actor; performers oscillate between being energies, animals, humans, and other undiscernible yet somehow mythological forms; groups come together, move about Kelly Wolf's ingenious design, engage in conflict, separate out into isolated invididuals again. We are thoroughly engaged on a visceral level as the rhythmic ebb and flow of encounter invokes strange bodily memories, haunting remembrances of the human tribe buried somewhere within us. Apexes of intensity occur throughout, with the sparagmos, or ritual dismemberment of a sacrificial victim, invoking our collective theatrical heritage, just as the moments of collective shivering ululations brings us to the edge of some kind of ancestral terror.

These young actors, led by the collaborative artistic team, clearly incarnate in this production the promise of Eugenio Barba's Third Theatre, where the choice is to explore beyond the parameters of what is conventional, what simply responds to current fashion and ideological trends, instead finding the courage "to submerge oneself, as a group, in the universe of fiction in order to find the courage not to pretend" (Barba, Theatre: Solitude, Craft Revolt, p 170).

And the technical abilitities they are developing are also in evidence: the ability for example to not accelerate through moments of encounter and instead actualizing the capacity for inner action, even as they move through the space in dance bodies; or the capacity to sustain intense verbal and phsyical action while clearly remaining tuned into the transformations incurred in their organisms and those of the audience. The tech and production students were also intergral to the prodcution, and their strong perception of artistic rhythm and timing contributed in a significant way to the success of the production.

If I had any suggestions for this theatrical equivalent of the Rosetta stone, it would be that the creators note that on some level the systole and diastole of the production, of sleep and awakening, of group and individual, of tension and reconciliation, does at various stages become somewhat predictacle. I felt myself hankering for more speech: all the right work had been done preceding speech to make it necessary and vital, but we were withheld this largely until the end, and even then the lack of engagement with consonants made the text surprisingly inaudible, given all the vocal power informing it.

Nonetheless: a very rich exploration of the type that I hope Humber will continue to privilege.

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