(photo credit: Andrea Gallo)
Heart, yes! Substance...
by Chad Dembski
I did not see Too Late! (antigone) or Alexis. Una tregedia greca during the Festival TransAmériques in 2012 but heard plenty of positive and rave reviews of both shows after the fact. The company MOTUS seemed to hit Montreal at the perfect moment of the Maple Spring, the daily orchestra of evening protests in almost every Montreal area of pots and pans and with a massive feeling of change in the air. At the core of MOTUS seems to be a desire for change, to build a Utopia here and now and for the future of all mankind.
Nella Tempesta uses Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” as its base to ask questions around power, master and servant and how we can help each other. Huge piles of blankets are used in various ways to represent a wide variety of objects from a boat, a rock, and a cape. The piece begins promising with a storm scene with strobe lighting that instantly brings us into the space. From there though the piece falls apart more and more as it plods along with seemingly little to no direction. A script is brought on stage and various attempts at Act 1 Scene 1 are approached but often stopped or questioned before they really get going. The piece plays more like an open rehearsal where none of the performers have made any solid decisions on how they want to play the piece.
A story early on in the piece about the company being in New York during hurricane Sandy is captivating and stayed with me during the evening if only to highlight the lack of personal investment for the rest of it.
Random adaptations are brought in to try and solve their problem but only confuse the situation further. The performers ask each other to help play out scenes, encourage each other to make a storm scene louder, and at one point Montreal volunteers go into the audience to ask questions. What is so awkward about this approach is that almost none of the performers seems comfortable, excited or engaged in this act of process. The performers do seem to have a lot of heart and care for each other but this is not reflected in their treatment of the material they are working on. They appear curious on some level but don’t have any genuine connection to why they are doing “The Tempest” or what it has to do with their desire to build a Utopia. A story early on in the piece about the company being in New York during hurricane Sandy is captivating and stayed with me during the evening if only to highlight the lack of personal investment for the rest of it.
Very few audience members around me seemed comfortable or to be enjoying themselves at all which might be me projecting but seemed the opposite of what the company wanted from us. At the end of the piece an engagement is further requested and I couldn’t help noticing that a majority of the audience left quickly and did not wish to stay any longer than needed. Utopias do often fail, if not every time; somehow - with Nella tempesta - MOTUS have brought this failure in a performance that has a lot of heart but no substance.