Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review: (Montreal) The Book of Thel

(photo: Andrea De Keijzer)
A Dream within a Dream
by Chad Dembski

From the opening blurred image that slowly opens “The Book of Thel” the audience is instantly brought into another world. This is a surreal world of the subconscious, a place of dreams and nightmares. A duet performance (one performer onstage, the other backstage doing manipulation of objects and set), that plays with notions of time, space and reality. Based on the William Blake poem of the same name that was written in 1789, a poem full of rich images that Clea Minaker uses to full effect. 

Minaker plays Thel, a woman going from innocence to experience, though this is my interpretation as Thel could be also seen as an unborn human. Adaptations of poems are tricky proposals, often conceptual and based on images more then narrative or character. This can make the journey tough to follow: as one is led through the piece by non-linear means, the experience can be both refreshing and frustrating. I found myself watching this piece in both of those worlds, exhilarated by some moments of breathtaking beauty and disconnected by others.
I do not want to describe too much of the piece and give away some of the fantastic and exhilarating surprises that unfold.  Still at the core of the piece there seems to be an elusive lack of emotion. Like a dream where it unfolds unpredictably and at times spikes with hope, fear and joy but often seems to float in between these states. This is also the bravery of the piece, taking a 200 year old plus poem and attempting to give a theatrical interpretation. A journey that takes us into the underworld goes on so long that it actually took me from boredom to hallucination.  

The Book of Thel is a visual feast with so much innovation, invention and creatively that I still strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoys visual based performance. The set, costumes, props and lighting all work so incredibly well together that this dream world is almost hard to leave once the lights come up. There is no question that I was transported during this show but I cannot say I cared too much about the characters while I was there. Still this is an ambitious project that deserves support, an audience and further presentations across Canada.

Runs Nov. 25 - 27

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