One of my favourite parts about undercurrents are the Late Night pay-what-you-can performances.  This year audiences who stick around the Arts Court Studio lobby will be treated to Vovk, running until February 11, and Faster than the Speed of Dating, starting February 16th, and the intimacy and cabaret-feeling of the Late Night shows add a nice variety to the main-stage shows. Vovk, written and performed by Lana Kouchnir, is an interesting solo piece that deals with a young woman trying to cure her writer’s block and, in the process, discovers her cultural roots.

This excerpted performance shows us numerous narrative threads dealing with Ukranian mythology, self-discovery, diaspora, and the historic persecution of women (i.e. those accused of being witches and/or changelings). While it feels like a lot to try and fit into 30 minutes, I am admittedly curious about a fuller version, much like my colleague Ian Huffam. Similarly, I felt a lot of the props on stage were unnecessary and cumbersome to Kouchnir’s great physicality and vocal work. She transitions between characters very fluidly and I found her distinctions between the different voices to be particularly well-done.  However, I just wish she had given herself more space on stage to be physical on instead of having to kind of tip-toe around all the props on the ground.

Pictured: Lana Kouchnir ; Photography by Paul Ohonsi

Kouchnir transforming into a wolf is probably my favourite moment in the entire piece, but even then it’s burdened with unnecessary stage business of waiting for the performer to break off the minute hands of 5 different clocks to construct claws for herself.  I felt a much stronger, and much more visceral reaction, to the almost rabid barking and the point where she stands herself up on the very knuckles of her toes (see: above picture) so it seems rather superfluous to place so much emphasis, or rather spend so much time, on creating the claws.

All that to say, I think Kouchnir displays a lot of potential with this current iteration of Vovk and hopefully it continues to grow into something really deep and significant with a voice that resonates with wide variety of audiences. It is well worth sticking around the Arts Court Studio lobby to check out this “coming-of-age queer femme wolf tale”, so don’t miss your last chance tonight at 10:30pm!


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