Saturday, September 24, 2016

Between Two Rocks at SFU Woodward's

I wanted to give a brief shout out to Between Two Rocks, Robert Leveroos' MFA graduating show in SFU's School for the Contemporary Arts, which has one more performance this evening at SFU Woodward's Studio T. If you want to luxuriate in the spinning of theatrical magic, then this is the show for you. In fact, a spinning wheel is a key prop in the performance, as is the wool spun from it. Some of that wool has been woven into a gorgeous curtain of string behind which many mysterious things happen, and out of which lots of additional objects (and the occasional body) emerge.

Taking his inspiration from a Norse folktale, "East of the Sun and West of the Moon," Leveroos, while combining text, movement and sound to impressive effect, very much foregrounds scenographic design in this piece, which contains myriad surfaces and textures. This includes a moveable raked plywood "stage" that to begin with is covered in a resplendent golden fabric, and that in one memorable moment near the top of the show appears to ripple and gather and bunch up all on its own, as if some strange creature is burrowing underneath it. It is this attention to the animacy of objects--not least the pliability and sensuousness of the wool that is such a key element of the overall design--that makes this work so unique. Not that human actors, including performer-collaborators Pascal Reiners, Elliot Vaughn, Gordan Havelaar, Linnea Gwiazda and Elysse Cheadle, aren't also important; it's just that those actors' primary function is not necessarily to animate the space by exerting their human will upon it (in the form, say, of traditional dramatic conflict), but rather to respond to how the space, and what else is already inside it, is acting upon them.

This piece is a feast for the senses: from the squeak of the spinning wheel's pedal echoing through the dark to the sound of wet wool being wrung out in a bucket; and from the sight of a smoke-breathing woolly dragon to the strange but compelling spectacle of the performers rolling their heads along the upstage edge of the plywood platform (which, not least because of the overlapping speech that accompanies this scene, I registered as a nod to Beckett's Play). There are so many wonderful moments in this piece that work to reorient our perception. I cannot do justice to them all in this short post. Conveniently, however, Leveroos provides us with a documentary record of his scenographic score on the back of the program.

That program also provides a record of Leveroos's additional collaborations on this piece, including with the Norwegian playwright Maria Tryti Vennerød, from whom Leveroos commissioned a poem that we hear Vennerød reading in voiceover at different moments. Also listed are contributions from fellow SCA students: past and present, graduate and undergraduate. One can of course never go it alone in art and performance (despite what some modernist visual art critics might think). But what I love about the work produced by the students and my faculty colleagues in SCA is that this axiom is always made explicit.


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