Fringe Review: “Berlin Waltz”, a play for wanderers with weltschmerzen


(Photo: Richard Chapman)

Taking the form of a multimedia, musical slam-poetry performance, Devon More Music presents Berlin Waltzan autobiographical story of a small-town Canadian woman’s perspective as she bicycles along the Berlin wall in search of its history. The story begins, and ends, with wanderlust, ironically in a place where wandering was forbidden.

By sharing her experience, More presents a kind of research-creation response to her travels,in order to educate others on what she learned. In her own quirky, poetic, and lyrical fashion, she shares both personal revelations and historical facts.

More’s use of multimedia is a highlight of the show. She uses a loop station to create a live soundscape and to methodically build up songs to accompany her narrative, recording layer upon layer and then starting again from scratch. She plays a plethora of instruments to create this soundtrack, and her singing beautifully pierces through the space. On top of the live musical composition, her performance is also accompanied by a video projection which plays varied footage of Berlin. The audio-visual experience is smooth and captivating.

Using a trio of sock puppets to represent characters of the Cold War, she mocks foreign relations, simplifying history while making it entertaining and comprehensible. While this might seem unnecessary, the socks later provide a greater metaphor, representing the figureheads and “puppets” of those governments.

More also expertly integrates audience participation into one segment of her performance. Not to worry – this is no intimidating or awkward experience. Her charisma and down-to-earth aura make it a comfortable environment in which she invites audience members to “create the Death Strip.” She takes her time, making sure the tone is casual, as she walks around within the cabaret-set-up audience space. The short segment effectively creates a spacial awareness among audience members, and an awareness of each other.

More appeals to people’s wanderlust, especially those who travel to historical cities, “chasing fables to relive.” However, this show begs the question of whether truly discovering history is possible in a city that has changed so much. She mourns and criticizes the commercialization that has come with opening the gates unto the West. Especially toward the end of the show, her words seep with irony as she describes the capitalized remains of the wall and of the city. “This city that was so walled up, has it already swallowed that scar up?”

The show honours the Eastside Gallery as a symbol of art saving an object from becoming a commodity and of individuals contributing creatively to a community project. However, even that mecca of street art has become a prized tourist attraction of the city, covering up the horror that the white wall had once represented.

One of More’s visual motifs is the colour red – from her red converse and multipurpose scarf to red lighting, subtly suggestive of communist or anarchist symbolism. Not to mention the red line which represents More’s bike path along the Berlin wall. A folding map with a winding red line divides the stage and serves to create barriers of many kinds throughout the show – a bar counter, a road, the wall, etc.

The artistes’ deliverance is akin to spoken word poetry, written in verse but delivered with urgency. Like slam poetry, the language is so packed into succinct, descriptive words that it can be hard to let everything sink in fast enough. However, one is sure to hold onto some of the hundred gold nugget phrases she delivers.

She also sprinkles German throughout the show, like an inside joke with herself. Sometimes she uses German words to describe what has no translation in English, such as die mauer im Kopf (“the wall in your head”) and weltschmerzen (“world pain”).

More alternates between spoken word and singing, also playing a variety of instruments including the xylophone, flute, and harmonica. This creates a wonderful rhythm throughout the show, with variation in tone and tempo. Her tone crescendos as she becomes wildly passionate about feeling weltschmerzen and seeing what Berlin has lost.

From that point, More’s message becomes more blatantly anti-capitalist, pro-protest, pro-change, and anti-complacency. She sings, “Is this progress?” and leaves the audience with the question, “What kind of walls will you fight?” Finally, she concludes that wanderlust trumps weltschmerzen, and that wanderlust is ultimately “the search for new awareness . . . for who is responsible, who is powerful.” Overall, her highly relevant activist message for protest and open borders will strike the hearts of fellow travelers. Her performance is well composed, providing an exciting multimedia experience and a personal, original overview of the rise and fall of the Berlin wall.

Review by Montreal Theatre Hub Fringe Contributor Celine Cardineau

Devon More Music presents “Berlin Waltz”

When: June 11 – 17, 2017
Where: Petit Campus, 57 Prince-Arthur East
Admission: $10
Duration: 60 minutes
Tickets: | 514.849.FEST (3378)

Official Media Partner of the 2017 St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival

Check out our other 70+ reviews from this year’s Fringe!

Celine Cardineau

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