Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review: (Vancouver) The Initiation Trilogy

(photo courtesy The Electric Company)

Going Places
by David C. Jones
The Electric Company is one of the most celebrated and bold theatre companies in Vancouver – maybe all of Canada. They are so cerebral and artistic they can be terrifically exhilarating and sometimes confounding.  
Initiation Trilogy is a collection of three poems: Glossolalia by Marita Dachsel, What It Feels Like For A Girl by Jennica Harper and God of Missed Connections by Elizabeth Bachinsky that have all been adapted by Ms. Dachsel and then imagined/created by Naomi Sider, Kevin Kerr, Anita Rochon and directed by Ms. Rochon.
It is a thought-provoking and uniquely staged evening of art, at times very moving and sometimes a little elusive.
Each time you return to the lounge wine or warm tea is available, and you can wax philosophic about your experience or do needlepoint. Really.
The show is staged in three different locations on historic Granville Island and each is imagined in a completely different way. The audience is split randomly into three groups and held in a warm but rustic private lounge in an unusual location. What group you are in dictates what piece you will see first. Each time you return to the lounge wine or warm tea is available, and you can wax philosophic about your experience or do needlepoint. Really.
Not wanting to give away the secret locations,  the content or too much on how they are staged,  I will speak to what I learned in the lounge. 
Depending what order you see the pieces dictates which one you like better. They are all so different they beg comparison. Your first experience sets the tone, the standard. The changing dynamics can be jarring or exhilarating.
One is a spectacular light and smoke show with three actors that forces you to move around. Another is an art installation piece that is a series of two person spaces with text via headphones for each. The third features two women viewed as if at a peep show – the whole audience watches via face holes a small circular arena where the actors are.
I loved my first one and was less moved by the other two in different and descending degrees. However a colleague liked the ones he saw in the completely opposite order from me.
The works are about transition within the feminine experience. They focus on puberty, Mormonism and cancer. All are powerful but only one is handled in a truly illuminating way in terms of content. The other two are well staged but less involving because there is nothing new in them within the narrative.
But it may be the order in which I saw them. Or not.
Special mention should be made of how Ms. Rochon directs the actors in the piece that deals with cancer. Their optimism and eccentric personalities (filled with hope) made the subject matter engaging.  The stagecraft (Pam Johnson and Cande Andrade) was also spectacular. 
Can you tell it was my first of the three?
The diverse cast handled the unusual staging with compassion and a subdued sense of fun. Bravo to the voice actors for the Mormon piece.
I was glad to be initiated. It was an engaging and appreciated experience.

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