Performance Art

Bach, Glen Gould and María Muñoz in perfect symbiosis at the National Arts Centre!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo. María Muñoz, courtesy of the NAC

One would not be mistaken if one defined  María Muñoz as a  performance artist as much as a dancer. Her research with her collaborator Pep Ramis in the context of the production company Mal Pelo is clearly determined by the meeting of musical performance, by the creative links between lighting and space as well as by the transformative use of film that locates the dancer’s body on a screen at the back in a new mode of corporeal dialogue with these multiple elements.  Her moving presence on stage is fluid and beautiful to watch. It reveals baroque order juxtaposed with searing emotion, passages of strength and flowing romanticism. It appears to be responding to the rhythms of the allegro, the presto and the andante time signatures of the preludes and the fugues based on Glen Gould’s interpretation of portions of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier integrated into her work. In fact, we almost have the feeling Gould is really in the wings, mumbling over his keyboard as his fingers fly at a phenomenal rate.

It could be the way the dancer anticipates the arrival of a bass note reflecting the specific instrument style that Gould’s playing clearly imposes. During certain pieces, by lifting her hand in short clipped movements, she retrieves gestures of resistance or  gestures of a chef d’orchestre ready to interiorise the whole piano performance and retain the rhythmic and emotional energy of that event. It could also be the moment when the music fades and Muñoz is left on her own in the silence of empty space. Whatever takes place, Muñoz calls up the haunting softness of an ethereal being literally possessed by these multiple forms of expression who speak to each other and propel her body forward on the stage.

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Booming through a kaleidoscope of memories of a generation

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo: David Leclerc

The sound booms book-ending Rick Miller’s packed ride from 1945 to 1969 are the world-changing release of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima and the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.

The baby boomers, born, raised and living through those tumultuous years, are invited to relive their memories through Miller’s lens, a combination of multi-media flashes, impressions (some more successful than others), comic twists and the stories of three people with very different backgrounds: Miller’s mother, Madeline, originally from Coburg, Ontario; Laurence, an African-American draft dodger and jazz pianist; and Rudy, an Austrian who immigrated to Canada after the Second World War to become an advertising executive and illustrator.

As well as the kaleidoscope of political, cultural and social events with which Miller’s Boom bombards us, replays of advertisements of the period — oddly amusing from the perspective of the 21st century — remind us just how much times have changed.

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Boom: superficial approach to history but a superb performance by Rick Miller!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo David Leclerc

The long awaited Boom directed, written and performed by Rick Miller is both seductive and questionable, especially as it purports to be a cultural history of the Baby Boomer generation that will incite young people to become interested in their own stories as well as world history. It turns out to be an amalgamation of various narrative structures that function in different ways, some are successful and others much less so. Rick the actor begins by introducing us to a film of Maddy his mother, projected against a huge pole of light that stands in the centre of the stage. This is the background against which all the floating images, the films, the lighting effects and the great mass of visual information will unfold during the evening. Structured by chronological time (1945-1969), the stage event becomes, the story of Rick’s own life told through fragments of historical information and personal experiences by multiple voices whose identities are not at all clear and who splinter the whole narrative into so many pieces it is difficult to locate any kind of centre.

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Tomson Highway Sings in the Key of Cree

News from Capital Critics Circle

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Retrospective cabaret celebrates the music and wit of award-winning storyteller,  SPEAKeasy Collective presents Songs in the Key of Cree, a one-time musical tribute to the multitalented Cree playwright, author, storyteller and musician Tomson Highway on December 12 and 13, 2015, at Hugh’s Room (2261 Dundas St. W). The evening will showcase the musical achievements and unique wit that have garnered Highwayfans around the world.

A master pianist, composer and songwriter with a repertoire spanning three decades, Highway’s music takes inspiration from a wide range of styles, including country, Brazilian samba, Cole Porter, Kurt Weill and French Canadian folk songs. In addition to his Order of Canada, the Juno-nominated performer was named one of the 100 most important people in Canadian history by Maclean’s magazine.

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San goes beyond the boundaries with blend of theatre, music and film

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

Photo: John Kenney / Montreal Gazette

Photo: John Kenney / Montreal Gazette

The city may be an indifferent, sometimes cruel place. But it can still harbour grace and love even if you’re an almost-obsolete robot infatuated with an office worker who’s as much a misfit as you. That’s the ultimately hopeful upshot of Nufonia Must Fall Live!, the gentle puppet-show-with-a-difference by Eric San, a.k.a. Montreal-based scratch DJ and music producer Kid Koala, that’s been making a splash at home and abroad since it debuted last year.

Based on his own 2003 graphic novel and soundtrack Nufonia Must Fall, San’s multidisciplinary show employs real-time filming of more than a dozen miniature stages and a cast of white puppets, with the video projected on a screen at the rear of the stage.

The audience can make out the puppeteers and camera people as they go about their business on stage. Koala and the Afiara Quartet provide live — and alternately sad, lush and disquieting — music on piano, strings and turntables at stage rear. (more…)

Post Eden:

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

jordantannahill1 Photo: Walter Watier.  Jordan Tannahill.

In this postmodern time of fluctuating categories and unstable definitions, it becomes exceedingly difficult to pass judgement on recent works of art because there are few  fixed categories that allow us to define anything. Everything is defined by its own logic and this is what happens when one is faced with Post Eden by Jordan Tannahill who rejects theatre practice that  has preceded his own research.  The only way to react to this piece is to let ones emotions flow and say “that made me feel good”, it was “fun” , it was “entertaining” or else that was irritating I didn’t like it, even though I can’t really say why. Those kinds of remarks are  self-indulgent and not useful if one is trying to understand what Tannahill is doing.

We might begin with an interview published by Patrick Langston in the Ottawa Citizen (April 14). The journalist quotes Tannahill who speaks about “taking risks” because when something is projected into a performance space that has not been  carefully subjected to some form of theatrical mediation,  the risk of mistakes, or confusion, or sloppiness even failure is clearly there. But all that contributes to Tannahill’s sense of theatrical “liveness” which he pushes to the ultimate degree. . Theatre is anything that  happens with real people in front of an audience and by heavily mediating the actors, the production (through a specific script, direction, blocking, lighting, costumes, multi media elements,  time and spatial limits, all those conventions of the stage ), theatre is no longer a situation of  pure “liveness”, it becomes a construction, an entity that is false, artificial, not a place of risk-taking and Tannahill wants to take real risks.`

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Who Killed Spalding Gray? revels in truth, untruth and what lies between

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

So who did kill Spalding Gray, the American monologist who died in 2004? Considering that he committed suicide by jumping off the Staten Island Ferry in New York, you’d think the question unnecessary.

Turns out the question is very much necessary according to Daniel MacIvor’s disarmingly idiosyncratic solo show about himself, Gray, a guy called Howard, and some pretty big issues including death, self-forgiveness and truth.

Principal among those issues is truth. The question of who killed Gray is, after all, a question about the truth, metaphoric or otherwise, of what happened, and as MacIvor makes clear, certainty about any situation or person is a moving target. While that’s hardly a stop-the-presses insight, the ways in which the playwright frames that target make for a fine 85 minutes.

The show, directed by Daniel Brooks, is a skein of stories and enacted pieces that link MacIvor, Gray and Howard in progressively inextricable fashion.

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Who Killed Spalding Gray: MacIvor in a labyrinth of shifting identities.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo, courtesy of the Edmonton Journal.

About one hour and twenty minutes elapse, just enough time to give the public a chance to see that Daniel MacIvor is a masterful story teller who holds the audience’s undivided attention, to the point where you can hear a pin drop. And it almost doesn’t even matter what MacIvor is saying because his natural demeanor and relaxed manner are so disarming, we fall quickly under his spell. This is verbatim theatre, but then it’s also MacIvor being MacIvor, using all his tried and true stage strategies such as his reading, to the audience, a negative review by Robert Cushman that hurt, or doing one of his unexpected interviews with the audience. In fact he invites a young man at the front to come on stage and answer a few questions. This is not a plant! It’s authentic. The young man happened to work in the ticket office and the actor asked him questions that in fact, gave us a resumé of the play. That prologue was clever and when the audience was ready, away went the actor with his own narrative.

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Century Song/Le chant du siècle: on reste sur sa faim devant ce dialogue fascinant entre la voix humaine, des percussions, un piano et des moyens visuels ultra-raffinés:

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Soprano Neema Bickersteth. Photo John Lauener

Cette production multidisciplinaire, une création mondiale, a marqué l’ouverture du festival culturel annuel promu par le Centre national des Arts à Ottawa. Cette année, « la scène d’Ontario » est à l’honneur. Parmi les 90 événements prévus, dont la danse de toutes les origines, les « arts médiatiques » ainsi qu’une grande variété de musiques classiques, populaires et traditionnelles, il y aura des rencontres littéraires (anglophones et francophones) et une quinzaine de spectacles de théâtre.

Le chant du siècle nous ramène aux expériences scéniques et musicales de John Cage sauf que ce contenu est autre. L’unique artiste en scène, la soprano Neema Bickersteth, une figure sobre, jeune et filiforme, dont la belle voix d’opéra, puissante et dramatique est le socle dramatico-musical de la soirée. Sans paroles, le spectacle nous raconte par des images, l’histoire de la femme noire au Canada. Appuyée par des paysages filmés, des intérieurs qui se transforment à vue d’œil, tous les effets visuels indiquent la remontée dans le temps à travers les proscéniums qui encadrent l’espace de jeu. Dans ce contexte, la soprano adopte une gestualité inspirée de la danse moderne afin d’indiquer l’évolution des rapports entre cette femme et son milieu socio-culturel. Grâce à un sens de théâtre hérité des spectacles de John Cage, du jeu transgressif de Mauricio Kagel qui subvertit tous les instruments qui lui tombent sous la main, et un texte d’Alice Walker (À la recherche des jardins de nos mères), l’équipe du Volcano Theatre a réussi un événement d’une excellente qualité visuelle et musicale.

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The Double: from Dostoevsky to Adam Paolozza…!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo from the Tarragon Theatre.

A great mastery of physical theatre sets Bad News Days Productions apart. Done as a play within a play in various times zones but originating in the present, it resembles a cabaret performance where three very talented young men perfectly trained in the art of mime, circus techniques, mimicry, tell the story of a Mr. Golyadkin, a simple office clerk who lives by himself, who has strange, troubled dreams , who is stressed by the behaviour of his office colleagues who appear to make fun of him; There is also the behaviour of his fiancé who breaks off their wedding. Is he really fleeing from himself? Is he so totally alone, abandoned by all humanity?. Perhaps, but Golyadkin continues on bravely. He eventually comes in contact with his pesky double –his shadow on the wall, or is it the other narrator playing the acoustic bass who appears to be feeding him his lines? This double taunts the older fellow, he disappears and reappears, he interferes with his office relations, and he shows up the older Golyadkin until the poor man can’t take it anymore. It all takes place under the stress of the terrible Kafka-like bureaucracy in Saint Petersburg in Russia. A medical doctor comes into the picture (no psychiatry at that

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Past Reviews