Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Review: (Vancouver) Photog (PuSh)

Jay Dodge (photo credit: Karri North)

Harrowing Stories Grab You By The End
Multi-Media and Acrobatics!
by David C. Jones
Boca Del Lupo is one of Vancouver’s most celebrated theatre companies. Their love of international collaboration - exploring human truths with experimental staging in both outdoor and indoor venues - has earned them legions of fans.

It is not uncommon to see their actors airborne or strapped to contraptions that cause them to zig and zag through space.
Moments like that drop you into their world, shock you and might make you feel ashamed about how little we know about what is going on in our world.

Photog: An Imaginary Look At The Uncompromising Life of Thomas Smith – has been touring across Canada since its debut in Vancouver in 2010. Now it is back as part of The PuSh Festival.

Based on real diary entries and interviews with conflict photographers – the people who travel into battle zones to capture images that most corporation-owned media no longer run: the real horror of war seen up close and personal - the men and women reporters and archivists who have to return home to a community more interested in celebrity gossip and sporting events than children being blown apart; 80 year old women left homeless by a wayward rocket;  soldiers ambushed and maimed or killed.

The multi-media projections are highly effective. The lone live actor Jay Dodge (three other actors play characters on video) performs inside large and wide scaffolding surrounded by cameras that project him into pictures and movies. There are also cables that allow him to sky dive, be blown into the air and across the stage. In one disturbing story our doppelganger is hiding from snipers and realizes he is surrounded by dead bodies. An overhead camera projects him on the screen and where his flashlight shines on the real floor, images appear on screen in its pool revealing dismembered and bloody bodies.

Moments like that drop you into their world, shock you and might make you feel ashamed about how little we know about what is going on in our world. What do you know more about; the drone strikes in Afghanistan or Justin Beiber’s Instagram butt shot. 
A powerful story near the end about a photog trying to evade Ivory Coast militia is quite gripping and you get caught up in the danger. The stakes are high and the telling of it is panicked and vivid. 
One wished the first 45 minutes had not been so reflective and our protagonist was not so numb. The effect was distancing despite all the theatrical effects.

In the end though it was more emotionally compelling and in the lobby there were pictures on tables from conflict zones. As the audience poured over the images solemnly we all knew: we need to know more about the people in the pictures and be grateful for the photographers who risked so much to take them.

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