Thursday, December 12, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) Collapsible

Theatre On Many Levels
by Jim Murchison

There are a few things that Mi Casa Theatre does that you really don't get to see anywhere else. For one, there is a boldness in their choices as to staging. At the Fringe Festival, We Glow was done entirely in a Boardroom and every inch of the space was used to great effect. 

Collapsible is set at the New Edinburgh Community and Arts Centre which is really just a big old house and again every inch of five rooms and the hallways are used as performance areas. Sometimes the audience splits up; one part of it going on one adventure, the remainder staying behind, but in a play that is entirely about choices neither staying where you are or venturing forth is necessarily more right or more safe.

The other thing that marks this piece as different is the commitment to intergenerational collective process. Basically what this means is that you have chorus, guides and designers that are children from the community. I got to see flood solutions and models of the flood area by the children. Did I mention that the great flood and how we cope and recover from it is the driving dilemma that fuels the play?

As for the play itself, it is a very interesting examination of how we react and cope with disasters. We have many choices to make, but usually there are two quick choices. Should I stay or should I go? Should I trust or should I defend?  Within the play everyone has been compartmentalized. Families have been forced to occupy one single room in a house. Not only does one family live in a bathroom, a kitchen or a living room, but their behaviour is informed by the room they inhabit. Although one has to eat, sleep and perform day to day activities, the way they do them is limited and dictated by the room or compartment they reside in. 

Andy Massingham as Great Grandfather is the town oracle. He plays with bravado, bluster and a meditative seriousness, but allows cracks of doubt to filter through. Rules are strict and prohibit any difficult or complicated questions.

Sarah McVie is a bathroom person and has the simple name Tub. She has a rivalry that turns to a friendship with a kitchen person suitably named Table played by Katie Swift. The two gave birth simultaneously at the exact moment of the great flood and their children were swept away by the rushing waters. 

McVie and Swift both perform with a blend of compassion and rivalry as they take the audience through the house searching for answers. At times they speak with synchronicity and common purpose, at other times they debate or even overlap their dialogue relaying two versions of the same story.  

The play is an exploration of how a community reacts to crisis and whether they follow heart, head or the dictates of competent authority. By using the community itself and non-traditional staging the audience is actively incorporated in the production. Emily Perlman created the script but it is inspired by the ideas of the children who are the chorus, guides and designers in the play.

This is still a workshop production so it may continue to evolve. The current staging is fascinating but not suited for anyone with a mobility issue. That could change as Mi Casa does not limit their thought to traditional. This is a play that could be set in a park or in the Diefenbunker and still work with some minor tweaking. This is easily recommended for those looking to find something interesting and different.

Collapsible runs Dec. 11 - 15
Run Time: approximately 90 minutes with no intermission

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