Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Review: (Toronto) For Me? (SummerWorks)

Unconventional Questions
by Jason Booker

For Me? begins in one place and ends in another, like so many of the human relationships the piece seeks to explore.

The audience assembles in the lobby of the nearby theatre and walks (or cycles) the six blocks to the designated location, outdoors, beside some decommissioned train tracks, in front of an outdoor parking garage. There, Kate Alton and Luke Garwood stand, between a pair of audio speakers, stools prepared for viewers who care to sit.

For Me? questions who performance is for and what performance might be. Is it as simple as a trip to the grocery store or an online commentary on a blog, or does performance only exist when an audience stands before you. For Me? occupies this space of reclaimed parkette with uneven ground, challenging the performers to dance faster and harder, to bring their equipment with them. This is theatre but in the most unconventional sense, choreography that debates how heavily we rely on each other to function whether as partners, families or the traditional dancer/audience trope to interpret the gestures that make up our lives.

The piece also features segments of spoken word from the duo, telling a story about gifts given in rehearsal as an acting exercise. Some of the items are meaningful, some are forgotten. This sets up a physical debate about who receives and who gives in life their actions or tokens and if or how the roles can be reversed or changed. Certainly an audience takes but it gives back appreciation and ticket sales, just as the performer offers their effort and art in exchange for adoration and rent money. But can any of those actions and items be permanently given or taken? 

Memory becomes a major theme for the Heidi Strauss' choreography in the later half of this sometimes jarring and angular dance piece. The penultimate segment features one of the most chilling breakdowns, heightened by the fact there is no stage magic in play to distance an audience. That moment contrasts nicely with the friendly games that open the show.

Definitely an innovative show that audiences cannot prepare for, For Me? demands attention and effort but what is on offer definitely rewards.

For Me? is at Summerworks

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