Sunday, July 19, 2009

Theatre and Poetry

I went to two of the shows running at the current Fringe Festival (theatre) because I had read about several that involved poetry. The first I attended was called "I Hate Poetry."

It had an interesting premise: three spoken word artists (poets) do a last minute impromptu rehearsal for a performance. They act as a troupe and as individuals, and the audience is left to consider what is "act" and what is the characters' unplanned disclosure, what is being rehearsed and what is supposedly not. But about the poetry.

It was the common spoken word genre, at times heavy on rhyme, often rhythm depended on that rhyme, and very little else that establishes language as poetry: the use of metaphor or simile, images to portray meaning that is not immediate. Any emotion or feeling was direct and in your face; all to keep the piece moving. Any contemplation would have to be done elsewhere later.

Still, with all my reservations about spoken word poetry, language, form, and meaning, I found the frantic pacing that is the nature if this type of presentation worked well. It communicated the characters as well as the concerns behind its topic. Thank you, Dream Chasers.

The second performance I went to because it was so highly recomended. "Head First" by the Toronto all-women troupe Femmes du Feu had won a main stream staging at the Toronto Fringe Festival and would only be here for four of the ten days. They had also won an audience choice at the London Fringe and so became a "must-see."

The performance consisted of interpretive dance, most of it aerial. The first segment was a pas-de-deux performed by the two co-founders of the troupe and explored the idea of two people sharing the same dream, not dreaming but existing in the same dream space; it sometimes occupied the floor, sometimes high off the stage, other times in mid-air, often in motion between those levels.
The second part was a mini flamenco performance, an interesting reflection on rhythm and movement. It was all the more intriguing because this was the only part without music; the motion and the tapping of the shoes had to say it all.
The third segment was performed by six dancers, sometimes all together and sometimes in smaller numbers. The movement and accompanying music fluttered and hung in a number of aerial silks, portraying six or seven aspects of a woman's life.
And what has this to do with poetry? There is no better explanation of how expression in poetry should be understood. Rhythm and flow. Brilliance to capture the attention, colour to hold it. The meaning suggested by the movements of the dance, by the phrases of the poetry.
Although meant to be an experience of theatre, the evening became one full of poetry.

1 comment:

Carolyn said...

I so wish I could have been there too. Your review of the works were excellent at bringing the performances to me. Thank you.

I have some issues with performance poetry myself at times. I am a little deaf and feel I miss nuances (if there are any) sometimes.

I like to hear the poems, but I like reading them myself more.