Saturday, April 8, 2017

Genetic Drift at The Fishbowl on Granville Island

The latest offering from Boca del Lupo's Micro-Performance Series at the Fishbowl on Granville Island is Genetic Drift, a pop-up piece conceived and directed by Pi Theatre's Richard Wolfe, and written by Amy Lee Lavoie. The title refers to a concept from evolutionary theory relating to the variation in different genotypes within a given species population owing to the disappearance or mutation of certain genes as individuals within that population die or fail to reproduce. In Lavoie and Wolfe's staging, however, this "natural" occurrence becomes something that is actively pursued, managed and regulated within corporate bio-tech labs. That is, the one-percent, finally waking to the reality of climate change and the likely total annihilation of humanity within and as a result of the anthropocene, have poured money into genomic research in order to find a way to transfer their DNA into a hybrid cellular organism conceived in a petri dish to survive the extreme planetary conditions of 150 years in the future.

All of this is presented to us in the present by our genial host, Tor Skroder (Alex Forsyth), who opens the show by welcoming us to the tony gallery that the Fishbowl performance space is meant to mimic. Within Lavoie's narrative imagination we have all apparently paid several thousand dollars to witness a demonstration of what the lab Skroder represents can do. As such, he asks his Siri-like AI-computer assistant (whom we view courtesy of the wonderful video projections designed by Daniel O'Shea) to conjure and transport to us a representative example of ourselves from the year 2167. By such means are we introduced to Gary 3 (Tom Jones), who appears to us from behind a scrim wearing a trench coat and with a cranium that looks like Hannibal Lecter's face-mask has been crossed with a fish head (the costumes are by Amy McDougall). Gary is not at all pleased to see us and much of his ensuing monologue is given over to insulting the audience for our narcissism and passivity and hubris, all of which, Gary suggests, are contributing factors in his own existence (which he also suggests is not at all comfortable). In this, Lavoie is troping on the conceit of human zoos from the nineteenth-century, in which folks deemed less-than-human (blacks, Indigenous peoples), were displayed as anthropological specimens for first-world consumption. But she is also suggesting that Gary, as a creature who has been designed to be more-than-human, is uniquely positioned to comment on the problems of the category of the human more generally. And as in all good dystopias, such commentary from the future is necessarily--and very urgently--about today.


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