The Playground Shows the Way in Immersive Experience

Review of Concordia's Department of Theatre's new experimental production

“Follow the lines”

— it’s the first thing one notices has been laboriously taped and fused to the floors and walls of an eccentrically embellished F.C. Smith Complex at Concordia University’s Loyola Campus. Mischievous but effective — I like it.

Curated by Stephen Lawson and Amanda Kellock, the ever-so-aptly-named The Performance Creation Playground project is inspired by the avant-garde HIVE events that took place in Vancouver and is the first of its kind to be birthed by Concordia’s Department of Theatre. The premise: “an immersive ensemble performance that playfully subverts the world of the everyday using elements of dance, mask, and theatre installation.”

The Playground thus involves experimental site-specific pieces that explore the concept of space and movement, and audaciously so. Comprised of six original productions developed by students of the theatre program, the individual representations run concurrently to each other and are intimately performed to small groups at repeated intervals over the course of the evening. Participating audience members are given the flexibility decide upon the order and number of sets they to wish see, according to taste (and level of sleep deprivation), as well as the autonomy to roam the showrooms, which are clustered around a central lobby/working bar/lounge/harem-themed socializing area. Thus, no two viewing experiences can be alike, and it’s an enticing proposition to return for subsequent nights in order to fully consume and digest the action. Peruse as you please.

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The appetizing menu of performances

My delightful journey at this perspective-shifting theatrical affair began inside the Loyola chapel, where “Of Haily Dabits and Oversized Heads”, an outlandish, fourth-wall-breaking flash mob of sorts, inhabited the sanctuary space. I reclined myself against a bench, thoroughly amused at the series of eerie events but at one point slightly distraught at how long it took me to get the spoonerism. Diverted and in a trance-like state, I could have effortlessly perched there for hours.

As I waited for my much-needed appointment to see a therapist (“How Does it Make You Feel”) and the Sleep-no-More-esque “If You Stayed Over” (which, for me, was the highlight of the night due to its immersive nature and nuanced performances) I fumbled my way up the stairs and around the halls of the asylum atmosphere with solitary guidance from the aforementioned taped lines, freely catching glimpses here and there of the ongoing “The Mate Project”, “definitelytruealltimerealtales”, and the whimsical six-act spectacle “Battle on Bosworth”. (As a side note: some performances require advance reservation, so arrive early and book your spot on-site if you wish to better optimize your time). With lavish oddity and randomness as part of the aesthetic of it all, I may just need to see a certifiable shrink after this.

I relish experimental and alternative arts, however, for its justifiable idiosyncrasy — and The Playground delivers in allowing one to indulge in just that. Interaction, involvement, responsiveness, and vulnerability make this charismatic production a winning bet on the Montreal theatre calendar, so venture your way over to 7141 Sherbrooke West and allow the the lines lead you from there.

 

Review by Camila Fitzgibbon, Montreal Theatre Hub Editor-in-Chief 

 

At a glance:

The production runs until Saturday, February 20th in the F.C Smith Complex, on Concordia’s Loyola Campus (7141 Sherbrooke West). Performances start at 8pm each night, with the doors opening at 7:30pm. Tickets are $10 general admission, $5 for students/seniors.

For more information on each individual performance and the event itself, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/178381629185751/

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