Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Ignorance

The Play of Puppetry
by Chad Dembski
A brand new French translation of Old Trout Theatre Workshop’s Ignorance is playing at the experimental venue Espace Libre, but only until Saturday the 19th.
Old Trout Theatre Workshop are from Calgary, Alberta and are an original creation puppet company who have been making very popular work since 1999.  Ignorance was recently at the Canadian Stage company in November and December of 2012 and was originally created at the Banff Centre for performing arts. I have heard about the company for many years and their most famous piece - Famous Puppet Death Scenes - was presented at the 2007 FTA festival, and Espace Libre presented The Erotic Anguish of Don Juan in 2009.  
It is obvious they love performing together
It's a stunning visual feast that is both simple in nature (sticks and material make up most of the puppets) and spectacular at times (video, smoke, trick lighting and use of scale); an investigation into the eternal search for happiness, the beginning of man and woman, love and death.  It was like an NFB documentary directed by Tim Burton and written by Samuel Beckett performed with a massive amount of joy and energy.   
Whatever weakness there might be in the script (all narrated and at times very general) it is more then compensated by a highly skilled and captivating trio of performers who are endlessly talented.  It is obvious they love performing together, get to do it a lot and care about this material and being in front of an audience. Moreover, they have a passion for death scenes (of which there are many) that go from grotesque to hilarious and back again and transforming basic objects (felt, paper, twigs) into people, weapons, animals and everything else you can think of.  
What is almost most surprising about Ignorance is how the philosophical questions of the piece (why are we here? has misery been around since the beginning of time? does our desire for happiness ever get satisfied?) get inside you as the piece goes on.  While on one hand a silly examination of both contemporary misery (scenes of older puppets working in factories, trying to enjoy life) and human beings first steps on earth it also asks what drives us and if we are any more evolved then most animals (we just need to eat, sleep, and have sex).  
There is an interesting blog dedicated to the show which details how the piece was created collectively with anyone who wanted to contribute. This adds to the epic nature of the piece but also helps explain the sprawling text.  
I recommend Ignorance highly and encourage you to go east side and experience a unique piece of theatre that opened my eyes to the potential of puppetry.  

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