Saturday, January 26, 2013

Review: (Vancouver) Testament (PuSh)

(photo credit: Doro Tuch)
Funny , Weird,  and Extraordinary
What Would Your Father say?
by David C. Jones
What a fantastic and special experience. Incredibly brave and audaciously staged, She She Pop Productions from Germany has blended King Lear with the real life examination of aging and familial responsibility.  But this is “real” real life as the artists are on stage with their fathers – all over 70 years of age.

And it is surreal too. At one point there is father sitting in an easy chair on stage right and as his face is projected on a large screen he sings “I will always love you” while his daughter is downstage on a microphone calmly reciting sacrifices and obstacles she will face when he moves in with her. On stage left the rest of the cast sits at a kitchen table bathed in red light, slicing and eating apples.
Like life, you get it done.
The pace is at times stoic but raw and honest. The looseness and disorderly way it is staged makes it feel organic and unhurried. Set changes are not choreographed but stuff manages to get where it needs to get to. Like life, you get it done.

The play also becomes self-referential as it inverts on itself. The cast – including the fathers - at times put on headphones and with their eyes closed repeat concerns and questions that occurred between them while they were in rehearsal creating the piece.

The use of projection is highly effective – cameras display the fathers and sometimes the children on screens behind the main action. Live video is always more vital and more theatrical than taped projections, theatre is live performance after all.

There are sur-titles over the stage as the show is in German – except for some of the songs.
With the adult children wearing puffy collars while explaining a world where pensions and money are disappearing and where unspoken expectations are to be met, it is both tragic and absurd.

The parallels between the tragedy of King Lear and the tyranny of aging and care-giving are profoundly moving;  then there are surreal and evocative moments like singing Dolly Parton’s "Working Boots" song or a viciously funny moment where a daughter explains the exponential decrease in her needed inheritance because of her brother providing grandchildren to spend the money on.
This is real life stuff that we will all have to face. As they explain in their sub-title the show is about  “Belated Preparations for a New Generation based on Lear”. It is heady stuff presented in a unique way that is equal parts wildly entertaining and  hugely impactful.
Sebastion and Joachim Bark, Lisa Lucassen, Mieke and Manfred Matzke, Ilia and Theo Papatheodorou, thank you for daring and thank you PuSh Festival for bringing it in from Germany.

Don’t be scared – face it head on – it is so worth it.
Testament runs to Jan. 26
Also read Tina Rasmussen on bringing the piece to Toronto for World Stage.

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