Monday, January 26, 2009

PuSh Festival: Week 1 in ReView

The PuSh International Performing Arts Festival got off to a great start last week. I kicked it off by seeing Skydive at the Art's Club's Granville Island Stage as my first show of the 2009 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. The show premiered as a part of PuSh in 2007 & I really enjoyed the show then and was looking forward to seeing it again. And it didn't disappoint.

The theatre was only about two-thirds full, mostly with patrons who had no idea what they were about to see. I overheard many husbands asking their wives just what this play was about. The lights went to black at the top of the show and the muttering continued until the lights came up & the curtains were falling down, actors were flying through the air. It is a visually stunning opening scene & from that moment on the show had the audience in the palm of its hand.

There have been a few re-writes in the past two years, but most of them make the dialogue smoother - only one or two places feel a bit clunky - like there were some references that they really wanted to include. But overall the script is strong - a story that evokes a lot of nostalgia in people who are old enough to remember the 80's - and makes people laugh.

But the strongest thing about Skydive are the ES Dance Instruments - the technology that allows the actors to fly above the stage & audience. And at this point I feel the need to give a shout out to the operators of the ESDIs - despite being completely hidden for the majority of the show, they are integral to making the show happen - and get a few moments of guaranteed audience love.

The second show that I saw this week was not nearly as good. 5 Days in March is advertised with the following sentence:

In March 2003, in the days before the US war against Iraq, two Japanese urban hipsters meet at a post-rock show and are swept into a one-night stand that turns into five days’ continuous sex.

And with a premise like that, it shouldn't be nearly as boring as it is. Written entirely in Japanese and performed with English surtitles, it reads like an interesting short story, but doesn't work as a play. The language is colloquial - it sounds like a group of friends sitting around at a party telling a story to a friend who wasn't there - complete with different people telling their versions of what happened, going back over the same part multiple times, and sharing little details that are entirely irrelevant to an audience that doesn't know the specific neighbourhoods mentioned.

As they tell these stories about passionate subjects (sex, war, etc), there is no passion and there is little action: just small fidgety movements on a bare stage. One rocks back and forth, one grabs his crotch, one balances on the side of her foot and so on with the little twitches.

I'll admit it: I fell asleep three times in the first act.

I'm looking forward to Week two which is now up and going & tomorrow night Club PuSh opens at Performance Works where I'll be volunteering Tuesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday night. I look forward to seeing some of you there.

No comments: