Dutch Master Painter To Be Celebrated in Dance at the Vancouver Playhouse (Plus a Québécois Play to Catch)

Photo : Sylvie-Ann Paré; Dancers : Carol Prieur, Morgane Le Tiec, Valeria Galluccio, Leon Kupferschmid, Sacha Ouellette-Deguire, Paige Culley, Megan Walbaum, Lucy M. May, Scott McCabe

Vancouver audiences are in for a mesmerizing visual spectacle of dance as Montreal-based Compagnie Marie Chouinard brings a critically acclaimed performance to the Vancouver Playhouse next month.

Fans of the Dutch painter Hieronyus Bosch will particularly want to catch his canvases come to life on the stage.

From March 15-16, 2019 (8pm), DanceHouse will be hosting renowned Compagnie Marie Chouinard as they present the Vancouver premiere of Hieronymus Bosch: The Garden of Earthly Delights at the Vancouver Playhouse (600 Hamilton Street). The performance, inspired by the Dutch painter’s 500th anniversary, takes the teeming, lively nature of the triptych oil painting and transforms it into movement and dance display.

To mirror the painting itself, the performance is divided into three acts that each convey the spirit of one of the painting’s panels. From the Edenic serenity of Paradise, the dark and violent chaos of Hell, to the overflowing excess of the Garden of Earthy Delights, the Companie will explore Bosch’s simultaneous celebration and critique of a pursuit of hedonism.

Set to an original score by Louis Dufort, Choinard’s choreography has a fantastical, otherworldly quality to it, especially through video projections related to Bosch’s artwork. The painting itself features mythical creatures, oversized berries, and strange globe-like vessels for inhabiting.

Photo : Nicolas Ruel; Dancers : Leon Kupferschmid, Carol Prieur, Morgane Le Tiec, Valeria Galluccio, Paige Culley, Sacha Ouellette-Deguire, Megan Walbaum, Lucy M. May

The dancers themselves are stripped of costuming, highlighting their human form, its potential, its desires, and its contact with other bodies. At times a riotous mess of physicality populates the stage, calling into question the limits and consequences of unfettered indulgence. The night promises to be a surreal journey into the human condition, the artistic genius of the Dutch master, and the talent of the dancers in the Companie.

Further information and tickets can be found on-line.

Review of Hieronymus Bosch: The Garden of Earthly Delights

At the close of the performance of Hieronymus Bosch: The Garden of Earthly Delights, the audience was wordless in disbelief at the wonder that they had witnessed on stage. It’s difficult to capture in words the incredible ambition and feat of the performance.

Unbelievably, the dancers of the Compagnie Marie Chouinard captured the complex and chaotic triptych, bringing it to moving and pulsing life. The dancers emerged on stage almost naked, spotlighting the intense physicality of the choreography as well as the very raw human desire and emotions that the production explored. Lust, anger, and frustration were all on in display, freed from their shackles of society.

The Compagnie began with Garden of Earthly Delights, zooming into various scenes within the panel and mirroring them on stage with the dancers’ bodies. This act had a dream-like playfulness as the dancers frolicked together, entwined and engorged on oversized berries. Sometimes they shifted in unison; at other times, there was an embracing of disorder, as they manifested the pleasures and possibilities of the Garden of plenty, free of inhibiting boundaries.

The next Act was by far the most intense and the most impressive of the three. Going into the depth of Hell, the performance took on a phantasmagoric aspect, the eyes seemingly deceived by the wondrously tortured spectacle on stage. What occurred pushed beyond earthly expectations, moving into a realm of the deepest of nightmares where dances writhed in pain, howled ungodly screams, and all bodies degenerated into their basest of experiences. The dancers released themselves from everything, becoming Hell embodied in all its tortured conflict and alienation. The performance was riveting, causing the viewer to question what they take for granted as normalcy.

Fortunately, the night ended with the tranquility of Paradise, the movements becoming measured, calming, and beatific. Projected and blinking eyes on stage though reminded the audience that they were being watched as much as they were doing the viewing, underlining that Paradise is fragile and benevolently given. The final image of the dancers undulating and blending into the colours of the canvas blurred the line between dream and reality, leaving the audience to take paradise, hell, and earthly delights with them as they exited the theatre. Overall, it was a marvellous production.

Le Soulier (with review)

For more Québécois talent, be sure to book tickets for Théâtre la Seizième’s production of Le Soulier, the work of the award winning Montreal-based playwright David Paquet (2010 Governor General’s Award for Literature). The work is performed in French, but subtitles are offered during particular performances to aid those whose French may be rusty (or non-existent), but would still like to enjoy a fabulous show. Part of the charm of a Théâtre la Seizième performance is the rare chance to be immersed in French and the talent of French-speaking actors/actresses.  The play deals with very difficult subject matter (the themes are intense and troubling) with intelligence, comedy, and traces of necessary hope.

This is definitely not a play to be missed, primarily because of the quality of the acting, each performer fully inhabiting the charged and complex roles of each of the characters. Running from February 27 to March 9, 2019 at Studio 16 (1555 West 7th Avenue), the work begins with a visit to the dentist by Melanie (Annie Lefebvre) and her eight-year-old son Benoit (Félix Beauchamp) who apparently suffers from a toothache. Lefebvre does a fabulous job of depicting a mother who, as a coping mechanism, adopts a fairly grim, desensitized approach to her child. Meanwhile, Beauchamp transforms into a child who has been denied the innocence and play of youth due to his particular condition that makes him subject to episodes beyond his control.

Photo Credit: Gaëtan Nerincx

However, in this black comedy, the seemingly innocuous scene at the dentist soon degenerates into much more. Another compelling character is the dentist, played by Joey Lespérance, who is battling his own mental health crisis and must turn to plants for stabilizing solace. Only his wise cracking and truth-telling receptionist (France Perras) has the bravado to navigate the strained nerves, fears, and desires of this motley crew. She herself has her own vulnerabilities to hide even as she attempts to navigate the explosion of below-the-surface emotions that erupt in the dentist’s office.

With sensitivity and empathy in what Paquet calls a “bipolar comedy,” the play explores mental health issues, self-medication, and behavioural disorders. In the end, the characters work together to weather the difficulties of life’s challenges, with a little bit of humour to keep them afloat. Théâtre la Seizième’s mounting of Le Soulier is riveting and productively unsettling, forcing audience members to question their own inner psyches, their familial relationships, and, most of all, the possibility for empathy and connection in relation to another person’s specific struggles.

Further info and tickets can be found on-line. Théâtre la Seizième also offers the possibility of adding a three-course dinner at Salade de Fruits, the charming adjoining French bistro (this can be done for any of their productions).

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