Unlocking the Unexpected: A review of New Voices 2013

Theatre The stage lights rise and the play begins. A mentally ill mother returns to her family home, which she has left two year ago. She becomes overwhelmed by the sight of her husband and decides to lock herself in the bathroom. Now is when things begin to take a strange turn.

The mother’s 23-year-old son reunites with her in the bathroom.  She introduces him to her new boyfriend — a lobster in the bathtub. Later, the lobster comes to life and starts to speak with the mother and son, as the audience learns of the mother’s hidden affair and the damage she has caused to her loved ones.

The absurd and unexpected show is the third in a series of seven shows at the ninth annual New Voices festival, which pushed the limits of theatre and dance.

The night kicked off with a short, poetic, spoken word piece, on April 3rd. The show is created by graduating students in the performance acting, dance and production programs at the Ryerson Theatre School.

After the introductory poem, a contemporary dance called “Fostering Words” began. Eight dancers, dressed in basic nude and brown clothing, moved across the back of the stage, making striking movements.

They soon reappeared centre-stage and swayed, jumped and posed with improvised movements to calming African music. The theme of communication was evident as the dancers conversed with each other using silent dance exchanges.

Random black markings on their arms and legs connected their bodies, as the dancers continued both with unity and individualized intricacies. The soothing yet serious tone of the piece was surreal in nature; transporting the audience with a mélange of sounds.

The second piece of the night, “Generation A,” was filled with bright costumes. The comedic tone and funky dance moves beautifully contrasted the first piece. Dancers performed a kidnapping scene, which involved a scientist and humorous “booty-shaking” moves.

Then things turned grim, as the scientist began feeding the dancers a colourful, Jell-O like substance. The dancers began to struggle with expressing themselves. A narrator soon thereafter explained the random, intriguing situation; these drug-addicted partiers were bitten by bees, and had turned into manic bee-people.

These random and unpredictable scenes translated well onto the stage because of the actor’s undivided dedication to the show. The wacky script took the audience on a bizarre and somewhat psychedelic trip, scattered with penis jokes, Missy Elliot songs and Jell-O shots. The nonsensical, anything-goes piece still managed to come together with a fairly logical ending.

The third piece, “Under,” evoked childhood fun and games with several colorful helium balloons joining the dancers onstage. During one segment, the dancers traversed the stage on an invisible tightrope, skipping around with glee.

The final piece was the lobster play, “Hiatus,” a production that again seemed to make the unordinary extraordinary. The play elicited different emotions like sadness, when the son pulled out various charts that he made as a child — tracking his mother’s repeated disappearance. Viewers even became shocked, 20 minutes into the production, when a lobster-actor popped out of the bathtub, with a comedic, disoriented look on his face.

At one point, the mother, who claimed she had fallen in love with the lobster, explains that it isn’t “selfish love” or “selfless love” she feels, but “shellfish love.”

There were a few minor technical difficulties that included programs being handed out at intermission instead of the start of the play and an extended scene change in the first half of the production that left audiences wondering whether the show would go on.

Yet overall, the wacky and unexpected New Voices 2013 was excellent — a delightful surprise.

The ninth annual New Voices runs from April 1-7 at the Ryerson Theatre School and features eight acting and 11 dance pieces. Three to five pieces are featured each night.

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