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The Four Horsemen Project

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Mar. 20th, 2007 | 05:53 pm

Four Horseman: The Four Horsemen Project at the Great Canadian Theatre Company was quite a ride. It will continue on 'til April 1st. Here's a rehearsal clip and more on the background.

I now understand how any reviews I saw were at something of a loss to describe this spin-off from a 1970s poetry performance group that spun out of DaDaism. It's got a very fringe-festival feel with projected videos and actors interacting, people acting out phonemes, yet there is a structure of plots that comes out.

It relies on what the audience brings to the spectacle, more visibly than average entertainment. It was initially startling but rather clever that the play relied on meta-knowledge of how a play works to do the intro and the exit in Japanese. We know what to expect. The actual English words would be extraneous.

It has a subtly to it yet the start was almost editorial to contextualize what this is all about. It had good momentum and conceptually interesting though, the whole show clocking in at around an hour.

To paraphrase one of bpNichols quotes that was sung out -- if letters mean something, take away all the meaning you can. If you have letters that have no meaning pull out of it all the meaning you can. It's a sort of hopscotch over boundaries of where meaning is and isn't and how things collide and reduce and become. I think I start to grasp better what sound poetry is.

On the other end of the spectrum of perception on the show, there was a very attractive shirtless man dancing in the scene when doodles of flowers start to fill both the floor and back wall of stage while another flower is carried in mime of love and dejection by the other dancer.

The program for the play's a keeper with more samples and quotes and bios on all the marvelous creatives who made it happen.

*Spoiler Alert*
The entrance to the play with use of phonetics textbook straight out of old-school ESL -- causing a mix of painful recognition at how essentially meaningless these "sentences" are. All three letter words must be simple and the whole notion of whether one can apply them to life and use was thrown out. It seems the most appropriate and aesthetically pleasing use of the lessons that I could think of.

The pace and mood was constantly shifting. The integration and interaction of image and sound, footage and motion was fascinating. It was incredibly athletic. It was rather nice that people paired off in what might suggest representations of both straight and gay. There was the suggestion that all of humanity is represented although my stereotype alarm went off gently now and again. But maybe that is the filter I brought with me.

What did other people see? Two women behind me went into something like coos and explosions of laughter as one does on seeing a fluffy kitten every time the asian woman did a comedic cute on stage. And the man to my left fell into ragged breath at the simulated sex of one woman writhing in her vowels and then, when the 4 dancers sang in harmony, he promptly snapped asleep, his snores interrupted several time by elbows from his wife which jarred his shoulder awake into me. When the lights came up, she rather unfairly demanded he fill in the rating survey on the production. He looked bewildered as a result.

None of which really bothered me. It's part of live in a group setting, like popcorn eaters in a movie or characters screaming their faces off at sports and throwing their hat. It tints the color of each dead-on precise performance with color. The people walking out after were generally sounding pleased in the buzzy hubbub.

I wouldn't mind seeing it all again.

Quote: "to ground yourself in words always lean against your reading and balance on the weight of what you don't know" -- Steve McCaffery, one of the original Four Horsemen (the others being Rafael Barreto-Riviera, Paul Dutton and bpNichol)

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