Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Le recours aux forêts

                                              (photo by Tristan Jeanne-Valles) 

Lots of F/X not a lot of effect  
by Chad Dembski

I can’t remember ever being given a pair of 3-D glasses before going into a live theatre experience.  Of course now it is common for there to be at least one or two Hollywood films at any given multi-plex that offer a 3-D experience version of the film but it has rarely crossed over into live theatre.  I sat in great anticipation wondering what kind of amazing special effects would be hitting in a few minutes.  Le Recours Aux Forêts starts quite slowly with an entrance of four performers who wear all black and stand in front of large microphones and speak all of their poetic and philosophical text from pages in front of them.  They are expressionless and speak either in pairs or solo and switch quickly between the two female and two male voices. 

A solo dancer slowly emerges from up stage and is revealed on a giant stage of water and floating clouds that are 3-D but move so peacefully it’s almost hard to tell they're moving.  It’s a beautiful scene but between the experimental ambient music, poetic text and generic movement I couldn’t help but feel very little connection to it all.  Multi-disciplinary work sounds so exciting in principal; four voices reading the work of a highly respected French philosopher and anarchist, a musician experimenting with a vibraphone and a dancer finding a new connection with nature.  While each of these elements is well performed, interesting in their own right and worth putting together, it somehow rings very hollow and dull.  Program notes described a potential utopia shared by all the performers and then shared with the audience; I could not see this at all.  

The work seemed cool as an experiment but left me feeling very alienated from any of its heavily political and poetic text.  While all in French I was able to find a translation for most of the text and it did nothing to help me understand the show any better.

On the positive side the stage design and mise-en-scène do build a beautiful picture as the giant water pool is used to great effect with paint and light.  It was a magnificent live abstract painting being made right in front of the audience as the show wore on and its constantly changing shapes were great to look at.  Still my lack of connection to the text in any way, left me yearning for something less about alienation and abstract concepts and more about the actual utopian dreams of the artists involved.  Still for those looking for innovative staging techniques and companies exploring new technologies this show would be of great interest.  Those who like their multi-disciplinary work more connected to real issues or people might be disappointed in the dream-like world created by Le Recours Aux Forets.

Le Recours aux forêts is at Usine C to September 14

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