Round and Round She Goes A poetic personal history by Keely Kwok
Whether we like it or not, oftentimes our decisions are based upon those of our ancestors. Either in congruence or defiance, our actions reflect those of our parents and grandparents. Or so the unnamed Woman in Jennifer Tremblay’s The Carousel believes. As she sits vigil at the bedside of her dying mother, the Woman’s mind wanders and she relives her family’s past to make sense of the choices she, her mother, and her grandmother have made.
The Carousel is not your average one-woman show. Tremblay has not written one long monologue, rather a series of short dialogues performed by one woman. Her language is incredibly poetic and visual. Her words physicalize, with precision, emotions of love, lust, grief, and regret. And it is the expressive and transformative actress Allegra Fulton and dynamic director Megan Follows who bring these emotions to life.
Fulton breezes through transitioning between The Woman, her mother, grandmother, grandfather, father, and sons. She steps in and out of each person, giving you a taste of who they are before whisking them away only to reveal someone else. The many memories she has to tell are fragmented and intersect with one another. Like a carousel going round, on each rotation, The Woman adds a layer to each family member until there is enough to piece together the story of her lineage. Fulton does a marvellous job of guiding the audience through the fragments. The strength of her performance captivates and makes sense of the many components she must play. Like pleading to her grandmother as The Woman and answering back only to turn around and embody her young son asking about a dead raccoon on the side of the road. Fulton makes it work. Director Megan Follows strategically uses light and sound to enhance the imagery of Tremblay’s words, allowing a swift movement through time and place as Fulton whirls around the stage.
Despite its talented cast and crew, The Carousel does not offer easy access into the story and it takes a moment to get into the rhythm of the show. And though it’s not my favourite method of storytelling, I admire the way in which it was delivered. The Carousel takes well known moments of joy and pain and gives them new life through Follow’s direction, Fulton’s physicality, and most importantly, Tremblay’s poetry.