Photomirage’s The Ultraviolet Life has a fascinating concept at its heart, but the show seems to be weighed down by a burlesque interpretation that sometimes works but still isn’t fully integrated into the play.
Ultraviolet Life tells the story of a young woman living with a skin disease and its effects on her relationships with herself and other people. What’s really interesting about Maria-Hélèna Pacelli’s script is the choice to have one performer playing the role of ‘Violet’ while another plays ‘Skin’. This allows for examining the main internal conflict, that of someone literally uncomfortable in their own skin, to be expressed externally. One thought-provoking line, which goes something like “Would you be you if you didn’t have this?” suggests the depth of this relationship. It’s easy to imagine our body betraying us in times of illness, but the symbiotic relationship between Violet and Skin indicates a more nuanced perspective.
Other aspects to Ultraviolet Life make less sense. The action is frequently interrupted for lengthy dance sequences that add little to the overall story. One scene, in which Skin is nearly seduced by a personification of Death, is the one example of this that works the best but others, in which Violet is visited by/hallucinates an ‘Oracle’ during her UV booth treatments go nowhere. A trio of medieval plague doctors manhandle Skin once and are barely ever seen again, and the implication that Violet’s romantic life suffers is mishandled through repetitive scenes in which the ‘Lover’ only seems able to say he “wishes you could focus on me a little more.”
There are some good ideas at the heart of The Ultraviolet Life, but not all of the various elements truly coalesce into a unified burlesque experience that entertains while commenting on identifiable human experiences. I would be intrigued to see a further developed version down the road, but in its current version The Ultraviolet Life doesn’t quite dazzle.
The Ultraviolet Life
A Photomirage production
Written and Directed by Maria-Hélèna Pacelli
Stage Management by Hayley Dennis
Choreography by Rhapsody Blue
Costumes by Vanessa Passmore
Makeup by Caleb Robsinon Art
Lighting by Kevin Da Ponte
Sound by Neal Sundet
Starring (in alphabetical order): Simone de Beaucoup, Ashford Sabastian Callender, Karine Duffy, Alis Goddard, Tiffani Kenny, Caleb Robinson, Katrina Soroka, Karla Turkowsky