Out and About
Jordan Tannahill’s “Declarations” on stage Jan 23 to Feb 11, 2017
Returning to Canadian Stage for the third time in as many seasons, acclaimed multi-disciplinary artist Jordan Tannahill writes and directs a new world premiere creation, Declarations, onstage at the Berkeley Street Downstairs Theatre until February 11. Snapshot review below.
An ode to mortality – that of the playwright’s mother, his own, mankind’s Declarations is a joyful and moving attempt to capture the objects, sensations, and experiences that make up a life. Through a lyrical text and choreographed physical score, five performers chronicle a life pulled through time, encountering mythology, political calamity, meteorological phenomena, pop culture, and everyday happenstance along the way. What accumulates is a staggering archive of images, sense memories and voices asserting that here lived, for a time, a woman.
A movement-theatre piece in three parts, Declarations is a living archive of gestures, objects, and stories that stand in witness and testament to the life of Tannahill’s mother, as well as to the act of creation itself. While the piece is choreographed and scripted, the gestures the dancers perform in response to a series of scripted declarative statements, will be improvised by the performers in an effort to keep the work constantly alive and evolving.
Five characters perform scripted text to unscripted movements. Tannahill started writing the concept for this piece on a flight home to Toronto, from Vancouver, after learning of his mother’s stage-4 terminal cancer. Thoughts of life, and what it means when you come face-to-face with the end…something we all have to do with loved ones and ourselves.
There’s not much that can be said about his production, as it’s more a piece that has to be experienced. It’s quite captivating, but also all over the map. So if you’re seeking a scripted work of art that has a proper flow, this might not be for you. If you have an open mind, and enjoy performance art, this works well. In the end, there is a story that’s being told, and it’s one that leaves us hanging. Where is his mother at the end of the piece?
This is…an interesting production. This is…thought provoking. This is…definitely unique. This is…worth seeing.
“Declarations is about the desire to articulate the entirety of a life, as it faces down mortality, and the inherent impossibility of doing so,” commented Tannahill. “In a sense all art occupies the space between human experience and our sublime failure to fully articulate human experience. I wanted to create a piece that spoke to that, to create an archive, fated to be woefully incomplete, of a life lived, in this case, the life is mine; but through their embodiment of the text, it also becomes that of the performers, and their improvised movement is an attempt to keep this archive a living one, changing night after night. What emerges is a joyful testament to being alive.”
Concurrent to the run of Declarations, House of Anansi has published Tannahill’s debut novel, Liminal, which works as a companion piece to the play, but offering more depth. Jordan is also currently writing the text for Xenos, dancer-choreographer Akram Khan’s final solo performance, which will premiere in Greece in February 2018, before making its way to Toronto.
A long time Canadian Stage collaborator, Tannahill (who won a Governor General’s Award for Age of Minority: Three Solo Plays) was playwright in residence at Canadian Stage in 2014.2015. The company closed their 2015.2016 season with Tannahill’s Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom (2017 Toronto Theatre Critics Award for Best New Canadian Play) and opened the 2016.2017 season with his 2015 Dora Award-winner for Best New Play, Concord Floral – initially developed as part of Canadian Stage’s 2012 Festival of Ideas and Creation.
Declarations is on stage at the Berkeley Street Theatre until February 11, 2018. Performances run Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Fridays at 7:00pm, with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays, and on Wednesday, Jan 31 & Feb 7 at 1:00pm. Tickets from $39 to $69 are available online, by phone at 416.368.3110, or in person at the Berkeley Street box office. For details visit www.canadianstage.com.
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