Spent reviewed in Ottawa at GCTC

Reviewed by  Alvina Ruprecht

Spent made the whole festival worthwhile. This creation, which is in many ways a collective effort, brings together a team of theatre people whose work is a rare phenomenon in English speaking Canada where  a theatre of text is the normal fare.   Spent on the other hand has realized a break through in this verbal tradition  by   creating a performance based on the heightened presence of the body, as well as the creation of visual illusions and  extremely intelligent textual fragments  taken from  contemporary writings of the church, from lacanian psychoanalysis and from  journalistic analysis of current political events. It also integrates a multitude of linguistic forms, sounds, specific gestures and facial expressions that correspond to the many people who inhabit this country. And it all appears as the result of a heightened sense of theatricality which transforms the most banal occurrence into a highly stylized and exciting event that whets ones appetite for more.

Working closely with a very tighly orchestrated sound scape, both  performers move  in the most perfect harmony, as their choreography , their gestures, their facial expressions and their speaking styles, set  off  a theatrical dance that makes time whizz by at an unbelievable rate. I barely saw the hour go by.

Spent in fact  creates a magnificent Urban Canadian myth.   It tells  the story of the Financial crash  that hit the world several years ago, how it was reported in the Media and how the near suicide of two  traders, produced the ‘Miracle on Bay Street’, a particular Toronto phenomenon that  inspired a whole series of events, around the attempted suicide of our two Holy heroes. The sequences produce a  breathtaking  series of isolated   episodes  that  create the illusion of teetering on the brink of suicide, of falling from the heights of the Bay street Towers.  The  two men are somehow swept away on a magical ride into the clouds, where they live a heavenly voyage and a  hellish  nightmare  before returning to  earth to resolve  the  financial crisis in Canada.

Using the techniques of silent film, (Laurel and Hardy, Chaplin and many others) where humour, slapstick and pathos come together in the most imaginative way, the two performers then draw on the most amazing rhythm –induced forms of mime, the physical poetry of  Marceau Marceau, even Meyerhold’s image of the bio mechanical actor comes to life within this repertoire of   all the forms of physical theatre  that exist in the Western tradition,   along with images inspired by the  Lanterna Magica, and from other visual and corporeal based sources  this collective of artists has seamlessly integrated them all in their own corporeal poetry.

Note for example the discussion where the two actors recreate a hot debate among a Lacanian psychoanalyst, a  Hindu professor, an Anglican minister and an Italian Catholic priest, all talking at once and all  reproducing the sounds and the gestures of each of these ‘types who see the world according to their own beliefs and their own  cultural heritage.  Leaping from such depths of discussion to sizzling broadcasts on BBC television and the final moment when the two  holy survivors of the suicide attempt curl up together in their getaway train with their ties flapping in the wind as they  eat hot  soup out of a can. Such  sequences  are  worthy of the most brilliant moments of  classic silent film and will certainly have an impact on the  future evolution of  theatre in English Canada.  I kid you not.  What this company has achieved is very important.

Why Not theatre, TheatreRun and Theatre Smith –Gilmour must return to Ottawa sometime soon. They were a breath of fresh air  in the theatrical landscape of this city and everyone should have a chance to see them. The problem is that after  Spent, everything else  might just seem a little bit boring…

If you can only see ONE show at the Undercurrents Festival,   Spent must be your choice. Only  two performances remain:  , one on Saturday at 3 pm and the second on Saturday  at 7pm  at the Irving Greenberg Centre.   Call 613-236-5196 to reserve your tickets.

Alvina Ruprecht

Ottawa, February 3, 2011.