Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Mosaïcultures

Mother Earth
Actors in the Garden
Review and photo by Keir Cutler

If we accept Wikipedia’s current definition of theatre as “a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place,” then one of the most successful and powerful theatre pieces of the year is happening right now in Montreal’s Botanical Gardens.  It is the Mosaïcultures Internationales, which so far this summer has sold more than half a million tickets. 

The theatrical experience is highly collaborative, involving artists from Europe, America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, creating 17 real or imagined events.  The live performers, literally a cast of thousands, present an infinite variety of shapes and colours while donating their time and in many cases their lives, working for nothing but water and daily pampering from a backstage army of stagehands.  These actors perfectly embody the Meisner technique as they emphasize in-the-moment spontaneity while responding seamlessly to their surroundings.

Much like a performance of the Way of The Cross, the audience moves from site to site through a magical garden to watch each specific performance. The creators have chosen to portray evocative stories that leave the viewer haunted by the beauty of each tale.  A Chinese girl who loved birds so much she lost her life saving a crane.  A Japanese dog, so faithful that even after his master died suddenly at work, the animal waited each evening at a train station for nine years for him to come home.  If there is a masterpiece in this theatrical extravaganza, it is one of the Canadian entries, Mother Earth, who comes to life as a living breathing being.  No longer just a concept, here she is in all her exquisite glory.  Rising high above the outdoor stage in regal frondescence, as a waterfall flows from her hand, in a tour de force piece of stage effects.  A peaceful soundscape plays to complete this awe inspiring scene.

Not only is this engaging theatre, but as the Mosaicultures’ website explains, these works of art draw on several other disciplines; “on sculpture for its structure and volume, on painting for its palette, and on horticulture in its use of plants in a living, constantly changing environment.”  Yes, the live performers are plants, over 3 million of them, and 90 percent from Quebec producers.  But don’t let their vegetative state deter you from attending these performances, while there are no memorized speeches, the eloquence of this production is positively Shakespearean!

Mosaïcultures Internationales  closes September 29th in Montreal.

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