Tangled Tongues Performance
Firehall Arts Centre
Back in the late 1980s, Toronto playwright John Krizanc’s
Tamara became a huge international hit. An intelligent script about
art and fascism in 1920s Italy, its mega-success was due mainly
to its format and setting. The play was set in a large house with
scenes going on simultaneously in different rooms and audience
members given the option to follow whichever actors or line of
action they chose. Tamara never made it to Vancouver, but Peter
Weiss’ clever Haunted House
Hamlet, using the same devices,
was staged here a couple of times by Tamahnous Theatre.
The Secret Project follows a similar format at the Firehall but
on a much reduced scale. The audience hears the two characters,
Dacia, King Queen [sic] of Amnera and her assistant, Frances, explain
how the Amneran occupation of Carvuun is being resisted by Carvuunan
rebels who are threatening to blow up a dam. The audience is then
divided into two groups, and each follows Dacia or Frances through
hallways and stairwells to hear her side of the story.
At the midpoint of the show the two come together to dance, drink
tea, and reveal some political tensions in their relationship.
In the final scene they confront one another again at the dam in
a highly stylized, slo-mo wrestling match that looks a lot like
the contact improvisation that used to be so popular on the frontier
between dance and theatre in Vancouver.
The story itself seems like a red herring—why the elaborate
political allegory? More interesting are the environmental components
and some of the acting. I was in the group chosen to follow Dacia.
Though it would have been better to let us follow whomever we wanted,
I lucked out. Nneka K. Croal turns out to be a fascinating actress
whom I hadn’t seen before. She made her less than gripping
monologue material exciting to hear. The wrestling match between
the small, dark Croal and tall, blonde Toni Rozylo’s Frances
was utterly compelling. Nice work by director Adrienne Wong.
The Secret Project seems very much like a work in progress. If
it were to be further developed, the key goals should be to improve
the script and expand the environmental elements. If an audience
is going to be asked to get off its collective ass and wander the
shabby recesses of the Firehall, it deserves more of a payoff.