SummerWorks 2018 Review: Fantasylover



Choreography: Alyssa Martin
Performers/Collaborators: Sydney Herauf, Mary-Dora Bloch-Hansen, Sam Grist, Natasha Poon Woo
SummerWorks Festival 2018
Theatre Centre Franco Boni Theatre
August 9-19 2018

Reviewed by Ted Fox

Fantasylover consists of four stories that are not shown one after the other, but intergrated into the show. Result is we are experiencing this as a surreal dream. Seeing it is like flipping channels and going in and out of each story.
     Tessa Virtue (Drew Berry) longs to be independent of Scott Moir (Samantha Grist). Ironically, in doing this she wants to use her body to sell the Nivea soap brand. She turns her white socks into the illusion of skates as she slides across the floor or moves in unison with her partner.
     An Australian woman (Grist again) becomes more and more addled, sending email messages to a hopefully male date when she becomes lost in the wilderness.
     As Annie Lennox, May-Dona Bloch Hansen fights off female demons. A king (Natasha Poon Woo) with a rather large penis (luridly mimed) falls in love with a tree (Samantha Grist).
     The dancers are grotesque distorted caricatured satires of women as seen under the male gaze. As sex objects, they are dressed in tight dayglo lemon tank suits that accentuate their buttocks. They may appear as demons to those who perhaps feel threatened by ballsy women.
     These dancers are adept at constantly moving in a twisted grotesque way with their faces constantly shifting in a palette of unleashed emotions, including repressed anger and frustration.
     It is often very very funny. This makes the show more unsettling in that it suggests the question of why am I laughing at such a serious theme.
     The sound track includes the songs of Lorde, The Monkees and Jean-Baptiste Lilly, sung by all the dancers. Sound is deliberately distorted at times, reflecting the feelings of those singing. Overall the text is collaged from a variety of sources and original text, mainly from dramaturge David Bernstein and musician Sydney Herauf.
     Sydney Herauf, a Calgary-born musican, wrote all the text spoken in songs or poems. Her voice is nuanced both in her singing and vocalization. Not at all like the others. Her presence is calm, focused and assured, a counterpoint to the fantasy versions of the women around her.
     I have a mixed reaction to this work. The non-stop high level intensity of the movement combined with the loud bursts of the soundscape and vocalizations blur or drown out the text at times, though not as much when Herauf speaks.
     The introduction in the program by choreographer Alyssa Martin says it all: "We set out to create a kind of utopia but the problem with utopias is that they're always in the eye of the beholder."