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'Are we not drawn onward to a new erA'

Created by: Ontroerend Goed Productions

Mirjam Devriendt

David Rabjohn

A bold and compelling theatre experience from the highly creative Belgian team, Ontroerend Goed Productions, opened for a limited run in Toronto’s Canadian Stage. Directed by a founding member, Alexander Devriendt, and performed by a cast of six, ‘Are we not drawn onward to new erA’ seizes the audience with both powerful metaphor and distinctive technology.

From publicity literature the production is “palindromic – in title and form.” And so, appetite well-whetted, the audience settles in for some electric visual and cognitive magic.

Thematically based on issues of climate change, the palindromic “form” is a plot line that can be simply described as moving from point A to B and back to point A. Beginning with a single small tree with one apple, the performance moves through an Adam and Eve stylized story and an eventual birth. It then moves through a number of indignities to our world including the destruction of the tree, a cascade of plastic bags littering the entire stage and then a massive gas attack as hoses fill the proscenium with grey clouds. A massive statue of a golden human overwhelms the set acting as a symbol of blinded humanity.

Moving back away from these horrors is where technological wizardry fits in. Having said that, often the more simple the technical aspect, the more effective it becomes. As the performance winds back in time, the audience is both visually enticed and then grow more aware of the clever movement in the first half that sets up this second half.

The six performers, named below, display remarkable movement skills and physical nuance. This becomes even more amazing once the audience recognizes how the movement and acting must artfully integrate precisely with the technology. Examples include much backing up as entrances or exits. The swinging of ropes or the odd use of tools appear comic until connections are finally made.

Sound (and silence) are uniquely integrated through the team of Babette Poncelet and Jeroen Wuyts. The opening half is silent for the most part – drawing the audience further in to every detail of movement. Some of the limited dialogue echoes the palindromic structure. As the scene winds back, haunting cello music speeds us to the end.

Philosophically, the structure of the production suggests the question of direction. Like the palindromic title suggests, are we moving forward in our zeal to correct our worldly mistakes or are we moving backward for the same result. From the company’s program notes, are “humans moving towards their downfall or salvation.”

Unfortunately, only three performances will guest at Canadian Stage this month. However, this esteemed and award winning group performs their repertoire all around the globe. Wherever you might find yourself on this precarious world, look for their work which may be just around the corner.

‘Are we not drawn onward to new erA’ Ontroerend Goed Productions
Performers: Karolien De Bleser, Kristien De Proost, Vincent Dunoyer, Ferre Marnef, Leonore Spree, Bastiaan Vandendriessche.
Director : Alexander Devriendt
Light, video and sound : Babette Poncelet, Jeroen Wuyts
Costumes: Charlotte Goethais, Valerie Le Roy.

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