Thursday, February 14, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Gob Squad's Kitchen

(photo credit: David Baltzer)

Live Video Killed the Theatre Star 
by Chad Dembski
Has film slowly destroyed theatre?  Did film make the live narrative irrelevant when it could directly deliver fictional drama and comedy in an easy to consume way?  As it gets easier to take in film and TV (Netflix, online streaming, illegal downloading) theatre seems to slowly drift farther and farther away, attracting only those most sentimental to its art (theatre students, the theatre community and the elderly).  
Yet there are companies and artists in the world who want to investigate, experiment and play with both forms of film and theatre and one of the best is Gob Squad.  Gob Squad’s Kitchen is a show first created in 2007 in Berlin and has since toured the world for six years.  This is Gob Squad’s first tour to Quebec, having played last week in Quebec City for Mois Multi, a festival that celebrates fusions of live performance and technology.  Taking Andy Warhol’s Kitchen as their starting point, two performers (“Sharon” and “Sean”) offer an awkward and gentle introduction of how they are playing a version of themselves but also confess they don’t quite know what their part is as well.  A massive downstage screen soon reveals two other films (via live video feed), one of a woman (“Sarah”) sleeping (ode to Warhol’s film “Sleep” that was originally eight hours long) and one of a man (“Sean”) staring into a camera with a neutral expression (ode to Warhol’s many “Screen Tests”).  The couple in the middle screen show us their kitchen items and attempt to re-create the Warhol film asking “how can we get it just right”?  A tension begins to build as the performers question their roles and it seems to be falling apart to total failure.  As things seem lost,  “Sean” enters the kitchen area and takes on a new character attempting to make the film more 60’s.  Soon “Sarah” is watching from the side and yearns to leave her bed and join the others.  

I have never in my life seen audience participation work that well and lead up to a stunning ending that almost made me burst into tears.

A dramatic turn happens when a proposal is made to swap an audience member into the screen test film.  While audience participation is a terrifying and often awkward proposition somehow in the calm and supportive hands of Gob Squad it works wonderfully.  A simple enough gesture such as staring into the camera is made even more comfortable by the fact the audience member does not see the audience or their reactions.  Gradually one by one each member of the company is swapped out as they go from performer to coach (on private microphone to the audience member wearing a headset and microphone themselves).  It is stunning and hilarious how natural each member of the audience was; talking, telling stories, pretending to sleep, answering questions, performing simple but beautiful movements.  I have never in my life seen audience participation work that well and lead up to a stunning ending that almost made me burst into tears.  The loud and massive standing ovation after the performance proved I was not the only one who was taken by this astoundingly original and touching piece.  
It seems so perfect that a proposal for the future of theatre (or performance) should come from looking at the past and those who dared to experiment, do something wrong, and live out their dreams of love and hope with complete abandon.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. Please read our guidelines for posting comments.