by Marie Brassard
Infrarouge Théâtre
Vancouver East Cultural Centre
1895 Venables
May 10-14

Peepshow is a curious and somewhat misleading title for Marie Brassard’s wonderful new solo show, in town for only a few days as Brassard continues her usual swing across progressive theatrical venues in North America and Europe.

We do get to play voyeur in a sense, peeping into the lives and relationships of the many characters Brassard creates, from Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf through various other couples all struggling with love, connection, the threat of the Other, loneliness, anomie, fear, attraction and most other emotions in the gamut. But Peepshow is at least as much about listening as watching, with Brassard’s technologically manipulated vocal work a key to the show’s effectiveness.

With just a single chair on a bare stage, Brassard works with careful physical and vocal precision to tell stories of individuals and couples wrestling with sexuality, bodily presence, and the otherness of others in numerous permutations and combinations. Besides Red and the Wolf, Brassard plays heteros, gays and lesbians, students and teachers, S&Mers, the cocky, the lonely and the desperate. She’s a riveting story-teller, and in the few segments where more than minimalist movement is involved she exhibits tremendous physical grace.

But much of the show’s work is done with voice. Brassard is miked, and soundman Alexander MacSween manipulates the sound she emits so that one second she is a six year old girl with a tiny little voice, the next she is the basso-profundo wolf, and modulations of the sound enable her to become all the characters, male and female, in between, without Brassard herself changing volume or tone. MacSween is like an unseen DJ, playing her like a record. Between the two of them the effect is mesmerizing. MacSween’s electronic musical score swirls around, beneath and behind her, adding to the rich sonic experience.

Equally effective is Christian Gagnon’s chiaroscuro lighting and the variety of haunting, often blurry, unspecific images projected on the back wall. At one point, as Brassard lies on the floor singing a very slow version of “I Put a Spell on You,” a remarkable silhouette of her body projects onto the wall. At moments like that--and there a great many of them in this show--Marie Brassard and company really do cast a spell.

Jerry Wasserman

last updated: Friday, May 13, 2005 5:26 PM
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