Testament, one of three Shakespeare-themed works programmed as part of this year's PuSh Festival (and the first of two based on Lear), opened last night at SFU Woodward's Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre. It was a revelation, a highlight among the consistently excellent offerings I have seen at the Festival so far.
The brainchild of the Berlin-based theatrical collective She She Pop, these "Belated Preparations for a New Generation based on King Lear" features three members of the collective--Sebastian Bark, Mieke Matzke, and Ilia Papatheodorou--acting on stage with their own fathers (Joachim, Manfred, and Theo, respectively), all of them retired, and none with previous performance training or experience. (A fourth member of the group, Lisa Lucassen, also appears, although sans paterfamilias.) What could have quickly become an exhausted gimmick instead turns into a moving exploration of the always complex bonds of debt and obligation between father and child--bonds that we cannot help but read through the lens of our own filial relationships. What's more, the piece is surprisingly faithful to Shakespeare's text (which scrolls across a projection screen throughout the performance), revealing new depths to key passages and scenes, while also updating themes of inheritance and post-retirement care for a generation of aging Boomers and their kids.
Everything about this production is dramaturgically apt: from the use of live video monitors to frame the patriarchs' grizzled faces as portraits projected onto the upstage wall, to the use of the Frank and Nancy Sinatra duet "Something Stupid" as a leitmotif for what--to paraphrase the program notes--is the always delicate public negotiation of the terms of love's exchange between daughters and their fathers.
Testament runs for three more performances, and I believe there are lots of tickets left. I strongly recommend snapping some up, as this show will be the talk of the Festival.