Grand Poney & Steven Thompson
We enter the Big Secret Theatre through the back way. We are met in the lobby by people dressed in white jumpsuits holding clipboards with surgical masks covering their faces, one pulls down the mask stating “vegetarians step forward please.” Those that meet this criteria are escorted to the entrance. Another white garbed clone, asking that we leave any gender-specific items with her; any non-state-approved liquids are poured out. Each of us is silently, psychically cleansed as another clone passes his hands over and through our auras. Before being granted access to the theatre proper I am handed a paper bag with various holes and told to “homogenize” myself. The clones are wearing them over their heads so I follow suit. Onstage another clone is writing on a projector. He writes words in red and doodles in blue between the words. He spits on his hand and runs it over the page rubbing out the lines, leaving the words. He removes the mask and jumpsuit. He is wearing a blue button up dress. He covers his face in red cloth and puts his white shoes back on. Discordant music is playing. The lights go down. He moves about the stage. The clones join him, doing their own movements. He is wearing silk boxers and a harness of beads. His movement is beautiful and graceful and disconcerting. The clones have left the stage; some hand out candy to the audience. This is now a place of dis-ease. We are voyeurs in a space made for watching. The group returns to the stage, but they are not wearing jumpsuits and masks. Somehow though they are moving the same as before it feels different when they are individuals. Coloured lights flash on them as they move. The lights fade. We hold our breath. The lights rise. Applause.
If Thompson’s piece was meant to unease as much as entertain Denis-Paulin’s was something completely different. He had us in the palm of his hand, singing Beethoven’s ‘Für Elise’ within the first five minutes. Yes, singing it. Why? Because “the CD isn’t working.” He needed the music to perform his chair-balancing piece. It also wasn’t his chair, because that had been “lost in transit.” The “borrowed chair” continually failed him. He finally gave up in fear of breaking his neck. Then we began to see the shape of the piece. He repeated the same short speech multiple times, sometimes getting the words mixed up. Loud, painfully loud, music rose up from the “faulty” sound system and lights aimed at us rose until we couldn’t see. He had moved when we could see again and we saw just how amazingly he could move. He had become a boxer. Every moment was a caress followed by a slug to the face. When the music faded he returned to his first and main persona. So the night continued. Entertaining banter with a storyline and hilariously clumsy attempts at acrobatics followed by astounding movement pieces as perfectly defined as they were difficult. When I read the liner notes afterward I found the tagline: “An existential crisis taking place without his knowing.” Well said.
Kristal L. MacWhirter