by Marie Brassard
Vancouver East Cultural Centre
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.