Thursday, December 5, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Blindsided

The layers of Beginnings and Endings
by Chad Dembski
Blindsided premiered last night at Théâtre La Chapelle as part of their Festival Artdanthé, an ambitious festival of Montreal and Quebec artists who often cross disciplines with their practice.  Although I have only seen one other piece in this festival so far (Clea Minaker’s Book of Thel) I have been impressed by the commitment to a vision and aesthetic that each artist has brought to the modest but exciting Théâtre La Chapelle.  It is exciting in these conservative and cut-back times to see a theatre programming ambitious and risk-taking work by Montreal artists.

Blindsided is a complex and layered multi-character show (all played by Sabrina Reeves) based around a central character, a film lecturer at a Montreal University.  An opening monologue instantly situates us;  a group of students which makes for a  great opening transition into the piece.  Her accidental discovery of a piece of film within her binder ignites brief glimpses of film on a blackboard behind her.  Once she begins to describe her brother, a radio station ad cuts in and a transformation happens. We are presented with Declan, the brother of the woman who we just met.  His tough exterior and thick Boston accent help transport us into a completely different world.  His stories of childhood friends, choosing a college and becoming wiser over the years through tragedies are broken up with more film clues as to who he and his sister are.  A longer film of 'Granny' and her two Grandchildren helps explain her job and show an awkward and realistic family dynamic. 

A quick transition back into the sister and then a German film star don’t seem to work as well as so much information is being thrown at us it is easy to lose track.  This German film star is mentioned earlier in the piece as a young girl who had made films for the Nazis (or so it is insinuated).  Her monologue weaves through her childhood, the film industry of her time and in a mix of both German and English.  I found myself less connected to this character as her story in relation to the central family seemed distant and confusing.  
The German film star transforms into the Grandmother mentioned earlier and she instantly engages with the audience in a gentle and warm tone.  She describes her interest and past with film while also wonderfully describing her own slow decline into old age.  It this personal revelation of the decaying body that is most heartbreaking as the final quarter of the monologue is delivered from the floor in an open and tender state.  
A final monologue plays out on the entire stage and makes fantastic use of the giant film image and a performer within it.  As much as I was lost at certain points in the piece I found it all came together by the end with various film clips and clues making sense, once repeated or placed in certain orders.  I found myself moved near the end as she describes in poetic but emotional detail how life can escape all too quickly.  
I recommend Blindsided at Théâtre La Chapelle as a one woman tour-de-force and fascinating mix of performance and film.

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