Fringe of Toronto Festival 2010 (June 30—July 11) Part 2


The Toronto Fringe’s continued commitment to dance performance was represented in 2010 with a strong dance component, including new works from random acts of dance and dance/theatre artist Anita Majumdar:



[random acts of dance, Toronto, at the Factory Theatre Mainspace. Choreography by Julie Grant. Performed by Julie Grant and Liisa Murray.]

It has been said that human beings are so much made of water that we are joined by water, not only to the earth, but to all living creatures. Biome, a meditative work—one might even be tempted to call it a study—by Julie Grant, explores the link between humanity, evolution, and biology. In movement that is by turns creeping low to the ground, horizontally working with, rather than against, gravity, and sometimes tentative, Biome builds a strange, elegiac atmosphere. As if new to existence, the dancers touch air, water, and earth, in blue and green costumes without legs or sleeves that seem freeing, and of nature. Though there are quickened and intense sections, the soundscape, in strong parallel with the dance, is mainly gentle, slow and electronic, with tinctures of earthly sound, as if wind and water had been translated; the soundscape also supports the timeless feeling of eons going by within the piece. Grant’s and Murray’s performances are sinuous and supple, and the dancers are fully believable in their challenging roles as sea or land creatures discovering sensation and awareness. The subtle looping of events in physical narrative (as the dancers return to a kind of “first position” in the piece), adds to its thoughtful beauty.



[Harley Dog Productions, Toronto, at the Factory Theatre Mainspace. Directed, and with text adapted from the novel by Virginia Woolf, by Brenley Charkow. Performed by Andrew Bunker, Mark Crawford, Jillian Harris, Ashleigh Hendry, Aaron Stern, and Lana Sugarman.]

Over the years there have been many adaptations of Virginia Woolf’s novel, The Waves—often with the result that the seductive and powerful text has overwhelmed whatever medium it was transferred into. Wisely, Glyn Bowerman’s version has taken a different tack: this production foregrounds the human element, and the text has been extracted from the novel to support and delineate character. The costumes are of Edwardian elegance, and aid our view of time passing, from 1894 to the 1940s—from childhood to independent adulthood. Draped with four light blue banners that flow from ceiling to stage floor—at times like glimpses of the sky, always like water quietly present, and sometimes like tall curtains in a drawing room or restaurant—they also provide clever cover for the minimal but effective transfer of props and furniture. Attention to detail is everywhere evident in this production, where the delicate scene changes move like water, flowing as time flows, like waves. The Waves’ large cast—most of whom appear here courtesy of Equity—works seamlessly together, making excellent use of the entire stage. There are strong performances from all of the actors, including comic turns, as well as grieving, as they quickly sketch, and then step confidently within, their uniqueness, with accent, posture, vulnerability and social position. This show was excerpted from a longer work, in order to fit the Fringe’s time parameters; one hopes that the full production will be mounted soon, and further audiences may be transported dreamily to a different time and place, upper-middle-class England in the early twentieth century.



[Ten Toes, Toronto, at the George Ignatieff Theatre. Performed by Hannah Greyson Gaito, Emma Letki, and Julie McLachlan.]

Life Games joined other productions in this year’s Fringe that explored children growing up, and with its own particular and unique take. Three sisters, a few years apart in age, play in the space as the piece opens; the radio is on, and the youngest twiddles the dial, looking for music fit for a pillow fight. The stage is strewn with clothing, perhaps like a teenaged girl’s bedroom, while she is in the throes of deciding what to wear—the colours, the fabrics, and styles offer a cornucopia of possibility, and are almost like a rainbow of characteristics for the girls to try on. Various games ensue, from tricky clapping in patterns—with an older sister teaching a younger until all three are clapping in a synchronized beat—to symbolic struggles for attention or ascendency, as they push each other on and off the two-seater chesterfield at the left side of the stage. Throughout the show, a progressive advancement in age, attitude and sophistication is strongly performed by the three dancers, until the time comes for the rainbow of clothing to be cleaned up and organized, as if they are gathering childhood and adolescent freedoms and putting them away. It is a testament to this show that the simple clean-up creates a powerful emotional reaction in the audience, as if we are re-living our own closing down, as adult responsibility takes over from the protected liberty of home. The last section of the piece is danced with black blindfolds over the eyes of the dancers, a sudden and carved reinforcing of the sense of loss, not just of feeling, but of vision. Yet Life Games also offers a kind of hope; so much has been altered that more change seems just around the corner, and wholly possible.



[Theatre Ji, Toronto, at the Tarragon Extra Space. Directed by Brian Quirt. Written and choreographed by Anita Majumdar. Performed by Leon Aureus, Anita Majumdar, and Reza Jacobs.]

Felipe, a Filipino-Indian film singer (Leon Aureus), is innocently waiting for his female counterpart in a kind of low-rent film studio in Bombay. It is 1989, and he has a meeting to get to after this work; a consummate professional, he sings Bollywood music from the score on a stand in front of him, to practise. When Anita Majumdar (as Kabirah) hits the stage, irritation, quibbling and conversations begin. A spoiled, over-protected, egocentric, and entirely loveable character, Kabirah embodies the brashness of talented youth and its vulnerable ambitions and hopes. She alternately makes excuses, tells Felipe stridently to be quiet, and speaks with friable authority, as her, and Felipe’s, stories are teased out—a compelling examination of family traditions, intra-racism, issues of skin colour, and immigration. The audience is fascinated and captured. Majumdar is magnificent as the prickly, sensitive Kabirah, and there is much humour in Majumdar’s well-structured and sensitive script as well, with its impeccable pacing and surprising turns. Director Brian Quirt is to be commended on all counts, not least for eliciting the best of comic timing and sparks from the interplay between Kabirah and Felipe. It felt there was one misstep, when the technical director, to say it subtly, gets off on the proceedings, but there is also courage in that moment, and a nailing of the seediness. Reza Jacobs is also fabulous as the voice of the technical director, nailing that cool, hip, I-know-how-everything-works attitude, with steeliness, controlling the situation to get what he wants. Leon Aureus maintains a casual, jaded professionalism that opens to marvellous tenderness as his story is revealed. If, as with past productions of Majumdar’s works, there are further, more refined versions of this play, my sincere suggestion is to get tickets as quickly as they become available; you are in for a genuine, moving, thought-provoking treat, with a bit of Michael Jackson dancing at the end.