L’Araignée

Wes Babcock

 

Quoique je comprenne toutes trois langues naturelles utilisées dans cette pièce de théâtre, les mots me manquent pour décrire et expliquer en français ma réaction à ce merveilleux spectacle. Je présente donc mes excuses sincères aux artistes fracophones responsables pour cette production qui, à mon avis,  méritent que mes pensées soient articulées de la meilleure façon possible.

L’Araignée is an intense theatrical installation that pushes the boundaries of language, movement, and light while questioning what’s necessary for each of them to convey meaning. While the performance is very focused on the ability of sounds in language to carry meaning, the incredible physicality of the performers, and the sounds themselves, parallel this meaning on a level much more primal and immediate that transcends any language barrier.

The entire story is told in text on the program provided before the show begins, but while this tale of trauma and recovery benefits from the specific context of the spider and the dog, and those who don’t speak French might have a hard time picking up this element, the piece (written by Élise Gauthier) clearly speaks on deeper levels than plot. The specific plot becomes emblematic of this story’s ubiquitous presence in the world by taking frankly the devastation of a near-perfection in microcosm. What I mean to say is that the very tiny becomes universally relevant through the visible struggle in this performance. I find myself wanting to talk in the sort of generalities that quickly become meaningless as I write this review for a few reasons. First, because I don’t want to give anything away, and second because the specificity of this story made huge in this performance points to aspects of the human condition that are easiest to talk about in meaningless generalities, but are most effectively explored obliquely, through feints that cut away our constructed resistance to the beautiful and primal aspects of our being.

The physical presence of the actors in the space, and their relationship with the audience, are another strong and interesting aspect of this production. Being a self-described theatrical installation means that the spectators and the performers are distinct primarily in the amount of preparation they have done to be in this room. The audience is encouraged to move about in the space as the performance goes on amidst them; you are free to find one of the seats in one of the corners or move at will for the best view of the action.

The performers (Chloé Tremblay and Catherine Boutin) make the most of their bodies as their physicality evolves with beautiful control from the clipped jerkiness just this side of spasms towards a rhythmic recovery from the devastation of their personal worlds. Both performers demonstrated outstanding and captivating presence, with Tremblay especially drawing a magnetic attention from the moment of her appearance.

The auditory exploration of language in this piece surpasses the bounds of a linguistic understanding of acoustic-borne meaning, achieving a sort of pure-importance through tone and duration that seems to draw influence from musical composition. Just as you can understand a piece of music as more than simply a collection of notes played by a combination of instruments, the language here is broken down and combined in such a way as to convey meaning through sound on a level absolutely distinct from the semantic content of the words in the script.

One aspect of this production I wish had been pushed a little more was the lighting. Certainly giving the audience a measure of control as they already do was a solid choice, I think the absolute distinction drawn between light and dark needs a bit of tempering and layering to more accurately parallel the other elements of the production. Whereas the auditory aspect challenged the audience, and the limits of language, the lighting was comparatively straightforward. Not to say that the lighting choices that were made were wrong or poorly executed, I merely hope to encourage this company to continue to expand its horizons, and ours through any means at hand.

I also wish the final portion of the performance had taken another step towards the edge. I really liked what was done, and I won’t discuss its specifics here, but I wanted it not to end, and I wanted it to force me back closer to the threshold of possibility. In order to complete the journey set out in the text on this level, we would need to re-confront the chaos of the opening from the opposite side of meaning, and while we approach this in an interesting way, I think there remains room for exploration.

If you have the opportunity to check out a remount of this production in the future, you should prepare for a count yourself fortunate, and not miss the chance.