Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Review: Now with Feeling (part III)

By Danelle Lee.

When we talk (or write, sometimes even think) about theatre we paint from a very limited palette. We call something ‘surreal’ when it ventures anywhere outside of the borders of a very small and badly policed domain of theatremaking; we haul out Shakespeare as a kind of witty shorthand (“sound and fury” gets the gong for most overused review cliché, with honourable mentions to “the play’s the thing”, “what’s in a name?”, and “something is rotten in the state of whatever I basically want to say is shit”); we call something ‘challenging’ or ‘difficult’ when we could be employing a lesser-employed Bardicism, “I am dying, Egypt, dying”; and so often we’re fatally tempted by the gorgon of art: “Good or bad?” That’ll turn you to stone, that one there.

When I say ‘we’ I mean ‘I’ but I reckon I’m in good company. Sometimes the only thing more boring than talking about theatre is talking about talking about theatre so I’ll proceed to my point. This is what I could say about a recent show I enjoyed at La Mama:

Now with Feeling (Part III) is non-narrative performance with a heavy emphasis on contemporary dance and audience interaction that creates a comic riff on emotion and communication in the modern age. Three performers play out a seemingly random series of mono- and dialogues that frequently incorporate onlookers, and include spontaneous responses to chance questions or unexpected environmental happenings. The result is a gentle, enjoyable hour of physical theatre that won’t shake your understanding of the world but will leave a pleasant lingering memory.

This doesn’t really say an awful lot, though, does it? What if I tried to produce something with a bit more immediacy?

Rob McCredie, Fiona Bryant and Lucy Farmer are perched on wooden chairs when suddenly they look at me and the house lights come up to reveal me frozen with a jam sandwich inches from my mouth. My munching is arrested by the abrupt attention which has shifted to me and like the legendary rabbit in the headlights I can only stare as they quickly scrape their chairs halfway across the playing space and continue staring at me. I notice in the background another audience member sneaking across the stage to steal a cupcake from the table they’d been sitting at. Soon after, someone to my left has a coughing fit during one of Bryant’s dance solos and she halts things to fetch a glass of water and check that everything’s ok, then pushes open a door and walks outside to break some plates.

Do these two paragraphs say different things? I don’t know that they do. I don’t know what Now with Feeling was saying, either, but I felt something occurred in the act of listening.

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