Thursday, October 13, 2011

Review: (Montreal) Hyena Subpoena

Cat Kidd (Photo credit: Tristan Brand)

Cat's Play
Exploring new territory
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Full disclosure: I have only seen Cat Kidd's work on YouTube. However there was a chorus of people, in and around CharPo, who told me that it was time I changed that. Kidd, I was told, was a force of nature and her work absolutely unqualifiable. What egged me a little bit more was the fact that her new work, Hyena Subpoena, is helmed by Alison Darcy - an actor/director whose career I have been following from the start and who has an almost unerring theatrical intelligence.

So off I went. To a strange land (St-Henri) and a strange space (Les Ateliers Jean-Brillant).

...she IS like no other solo performer I have ever seen. 

The space is an integral part of the evening, as central to the event as Cat Kidd herself, or her text. Squint and you have the raw, harsh world of the play (South Africa's savannahs). Squint again and the street lights coming through the trees through the industrial space's windows is the orange moon.  And Kidd dominates this space with a huge presence and yet without busy-ness...and she IS like no other solo performer I have ever seen.

The text, with its almost invisible patterns and rhyme schemes, is brilliant - 80 minutes of stories told which, in an odd way (an organic way, if you'll permit me to enlist jargon) create their own chronology. The tale is of a mad artist, exiled by critics to the planes, who must relive the diagnosed madness of her childhood to find the violent peace which wild Africa might offer. Toward this end, she uses/inhabits the figure of the hyena who, in nature and in lore, is a chimera—shape-shifter, scavenger, savage, witch, whore, but, above all, a survivor.

Darcy, for her part, is completely complicit with Kidd.

Kidd pours words, turns of phrase and images over us, separated into cantos which each have a set of rhythms and themes. Sometimes the passage is one of life in a modern world, but in one glorious one it is about a connection made with a dying lioness (whose eyes we see in film projected on the rear wall) who, like the central character, is a victim of modernity. (The film comes from a 2007 trip Kidd took with Geoff Agombar to SA.)

Darcy, for her part, is completely complicit with Kidd. She has helped find the movement and stillnesses which create the incredibly solid structure the fables inhabit. We are very far from the Fringe Fest solos where the director's sole concern seems to be flinging the performer about the space. And we are far from the actors whose mouths never fit around poetry. Kidd's performance and Darcy's leadership are object lessons.

When I left the theatre I told my companion it reminded me of Wagner: what Kidd is doing is a combination of art and prowess - one cannot work without the other. But in both cases, it is a challenging experience you have to be open to and deliver yourself to.

I am glad that I did.

For more information go to Cat Kidd's website or Scapegoat Carnivale's website

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