I couldn’t imagine a better way to discover the work of Theatre Terrific than to sit on a boardwalk at Granville Island’s Sculpture Grove to watch Being Animal. During a brilliantly sunny and windy Sunday, I had the opportunity to attend this show with my friend and fellow blogger Lauren Kresowaty of NiftyNotCool. Part of the Vancouver Fringe Festival, Being Animal is the result of the collaboration between Co-Artistic Directors Susanna Uchatius and James Coomber and an ensemble cast.
If you have not previously heard of Theatre Terrific, you are missing out, as they are notable for both their process and their product. Vancouver boasts a prolific community of theatre companies, yet Theatre Terrific is unique because it pioneers inclusive opportunities for artists of all abilities. This company supports artists of diverse abilities to develop their performance skills, and collaborate in the production of provocative theatrical works.
Inspired by the work of cultural ecologist and performance artist David Abram, Being Animal explores how we nourish and embrace the otherness in ourselves, those around us, and our environment. What results is an original work that uses masks, movement, music, and puppetry in a dynamic outdoor setting. This show relies minimally on narrative or dialogue. Because of this, it opens up other modes of communication.
The cast’s use of masks in this work is particularly compelling. Masks are immensely powerful, carrying a prodigious history as works of art, vehicles of ritual, and disciplines of performance. In theatre, masks draw our awareness to the authority with which we imbue faces, including our own, which effectively blind us. Donning a mask is to transform and bring to life the character that already resides in the mask.
In watching this show, I came to reflect on how in covering our faces, we erase a principal signifier of our identities, creating a space in which we can transform into something new. The masked face, introduces a sense of strangeness as the audience may no longer rely on the face yet paradoxically, it also removes the audience’s opportunities to identify “othering” characteristics attributed to a person’s unmasked face. Thus, the physical takes on a greater significance. Gestures and movement become condensed, and gain greater significance.
There are many more reasons that this is a show to be discovered and savoured, James Coomber’s deft sound design, the beautiful use of the depth and breadth of the grove, the daring, inventiveness, and vulnerability of the performers. For those seeking something authentic, this refreshing and transformative show is the one to see – and there is still time.
Being Animal is part of the Vancouver Fringe Festival, tickets can be purchased here.
Venue: Sculpture Grove
Dates: Friday, September 18 @ 6pm
Saturday, September 19 @ 2pm
Sunday, September 20 @ 2pm