Recent Experiences

Keith Gallasch

In one of the festival’s series of intimate performances, this one with audience and actors sharing the stage of the Playhouse, performers from Canada’s STO Union and Candid Stammer Theatre sit at a large ring of a table with us, narrating, interviewing, staging simple enactments and a dance in the centre of the circle. A century, the 20th, in the life of a family flickers by, the years are announced (or not, many don’t get a look in, either suggestive subtext chasms or empty times). A sentence commenced in one year is completed in the next (as if it took that long for something to be worked through), a spare dialogue crosses several years, or an emotional eruption represents a whole year. Characters come and go, strange events and synchronicities leap out of the ordinary, as in a Paul Auster novel, and actors play generation after generation—the co-author and actor Nadia Ross relieved, she tells us, when she finally gets to play herself instead of her forebears.

The century for this family is scattered with curious encounters and sometimes startling revelations brought on by war, sundry separations, the birth of idiosyncratic twins, the murder of one in 1947 by fellow workers hostile to a lesbian, interracial relations and the increasing domestic isolation of that century. There is the sense, in all these intense sketches and fragments of realities, of an often atypical family struggling with typical yearnings, especially love and happiness. The first courtship, 1901, has the grandfather-to-be describing love as that which allows one “to endure, to be more”, but we see how hard that will be to realise in the face of religion, insanity, capitalist fantasies, unconventional sexual proclivities, mediums and strange visions (one twin’s fantasy that her mouth is a black hole which reflects the world). The conclusion of the performance entails a desire to see life as simple, but everything we have witnessed in 100 years at just over one hour says no. Low key, quietly intense performances and the intimacy of the actors’ presence, the refusal to fill in the narrational gaps, and the way north American performers hymn their delivery all make for a poetic evocation of a century at once terribly familiar and utterly strange.

Recent Experiences, STO Union & Candid Stammer Theatre, written & directed by Nadia Ross, Jacob Wren, set design Paulk Mezei, lighting Steve Lucas; Playhouse stage, Oct 22-27

RealTime issue #52 Dec-Jan 2002 pg. 7

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 December 2002