From June 11–20, Torontoist is exploring the best and most promising of Luminato’s many offerings.
Photo by Proud Mother Pictures and provided courtesy of Luminato.
Imagine a theatre with two audiences, seated facing each other, with a stage in between them. Now imagine a vertical blind drawn across the middle of the theatre, so that each audience only sees what happens on one half of the stage.
This is the basic set-up of Two Faced Bastard, a performance piece which made its Canadian debut at Luminato Friday night. (Two Faced Bastard defies any neat boundaries of medium or genre: though it is listed in the dance section of the Luminato program, it contains more dialogue and, for lack of a better explanation, choreographed but non-lyrical movement, than anything recognizable as conventional dance.) Performers switch from one side of the blind to the other and then back again throughout the show, so that each audience sees a separate performance, but one that is also related to that taking place on the other side of the blind.
It’s a clever idea, one meant to evoke the duality of performer and role—what happens when going offstage simply means taking on a different kind of performance, the one of daily public life? And it comes courtesy of Chunky Move, an acclaimed Australian contemporary performance company.
Unfortunately, Two Faced Bastard doesn’t do justice to its subject, and left us feeling rather more tormented than tantalized.
Much like the other line at the grocery store always moves faster, no matter which one you’ve chosen to stand in, we were at first beset by the sense that the show on the other side of the blind was the more compelling. Of course, that’s part of the point: bifurcating the stage is a trick meant to create tension and frustration. For the device to work, though, there needs to be a payoff at the end, a gratifying release of tension which makes the buildup worthwhile, and this is what we found so sorely lacking. After half an hour of seeing only momentary glimpses of the dancing taking place on the other side of the blind (our side had performers in street clothes, discussing various aspects of performance), we were greeted not with our own subsequent display of dancing but with a complete devolution of the organizing scheme entirely.
We don’t entirely understand what happened next, in terms of how the narrative unfolded, but it seemed to involve various performers having mental breakdowns (perhaps due to the pressures of performing?). What we do know is that the increasing frenzy—characterized by performers wearing cardboard boxes, yelling a lot, and attacking each other—culminated in a protracted scene that featured a person clad entirely in white fabric, including a mask over her face and elfin shoes on her feet, with pillows stuffed at her belly (we assume to simulate pregnancy), chasing an errant piece of styrofoam across the stage.
Which is not to say that such thoroughgoing experimentalism is inherently bad. But this experiment, unfortunately, collapsed under its own weight. There was simply not enough substance, not a nuanced enough examination of the meaning of duality in either the dance or the dialogue, for Two Faced Bastard to feel like a fully realized work.
Two Faced Bastard will be performed again on Saturday June 12 at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., and on Sunday June 13 at 4 p.m., at the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre.
Check out our Luminato guide or today’s Urban Planner for our Luminato recommendations, or follow our coverage here.