Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Drugs Keep Me Alive

(photo by Wonge Bergmann)

Staying Alive
by Chad Dembski

A solo show is always a daunting task for the creation team, the performer and the audience, and is more and more a common occurrence with arts funding cuts not only in Canada but worldwide as well. Jan Fabre is an intriguing artist who has been making challenging and provocative works in Belgium since the early 1980’s. His works are often in-your-face, direct and at times disturbing. His last work to play in Montreal was Orgy of Tolerance that played at the 2011 Festival TransAmériques. I missed this show but the reactions I heard were all extreme, it was a definite loved it or hated it piece.

Drugs Keep Me Alive is more subdued than some of his other works but still has a very strong punch of honesty, risk-taking and raw performance. It is a basic story of one man’s battle with being HIV positive and drug cocktails he makes for himself on a daily basis. With an impressive set of over 100 brown pill bottles, Antony Rizzi describes in great detail the various combinations he has tried over the years for both his illness and personal pleasure. Seeming both an incredible free spirit and also a reckless party animal, he also seems to challenge the notion that doctors can give the best advice. With incredible skill and precision his dance is highly focused, intense and a sign that no matter what he is still in amazing shape. He plays a clown of sorts, dressed in a tall white hat, white gloves and with exaggerated expressions in short but funny commercial break moments. Antony explains his life to us in brief snippets while experimenting with making large bubbles on stage with three large pools of bubble liquid and big hoops. 

I did not know many of the drugs he went into detail about during the show but his descriptive impressions of each one (and various combinations) were intoxicating. Antony is living a life of excess and after awhile it almost seems unbelievable that he is able to continue his lifestyle to this day.

A strong voice for allowing oneself pleasure and enjoying every moment you have in life, the piece almost speaks like a manifesto for hedonistic choice. The choice to be oneself, the choice to self-medicate, the choice to continue working despite the fear of one's body failing, the choice to enjoy a lover's body to the extreme and the choice to be oneself no matter what the cost.
Drugs Keep Me Alive is an inspiring, bizarre and touching piece about how we often deny ourselves the pleasures we so often crave. Bubbles are a re-occuring theme throughout the piece and near the end of the piece fill the stage seeming to say, “life is but a dream, but isn’t this dream beautiful?”.  

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