Fringe Review: Breathtaking Compositions in “Docile Bodies”


(Image courtesy of Wig in a Box)

The irony in Docile Bodies is that the term itself would imply a form of corporeal submission, yet it has some of the most liberal, smart, and experimental collective creation efforts that result in intricate beautiful moments brimming with power – and others with sheer badassery.


After a well-received run this past May at Montreal’s La Chapelle Theatre, Wig in a Box Theatre brings their remount of Docile Bodies to the Fringe – this time, at the M.A.I. The result is an incredibly polished show coming from a place of collective-creation from an ensemble of multi-disciplinary artists. Since January they have been combining efforts to create this performance, and oh, how it has been worth it. Directed by Lisa Saban and Natalie Liconti, it is performed by Liconti, Sarah Foulkes, Emily Sirota, Darragh Mondoux, and Laura Beaudoin.

I enter the space and am greeted with performers doing the Beep Test (memories of highschool flood back to me). The “beep” noise is incrementally occurring at quicker intervals, leaving the entire 10 minutes of waiting in the house as a build. I almost felt guilty looking at my phone. From the top, the piece sucked me in.

Structured as different “levels” (referencing the beep test, as well as the steps the military would take to create docile bodies), the performers deliver monologues as well as vignettes of movements and compositions to tell the stories of 5 different people in the military and their respective struggles. The artists – all women – take on the roles of males, females, and characters left ambiguous in gender.

The performers’ strengths in monologues varied, with some more impactful than others; this, however, did not distract as the piece lives and breathes in the ensemble. Near the beginning, one actor encapsulated the helplessness of being at sea with a dance solo. She moved beautifully, but the image was truly completed with the other performers on the sides moving their bodies with an effervescent and weightless quality while reciting lines back to the dancer. The composition gave me a big stupid smile as I thought: “This is SO cool.” In fact, throughout almost the entire show, every performer was on stage, if only in a pose in the background. The added presence solidified each “level”. The synergy between them was palpable. Transitions were done with sound, lighting and movement, never leaving a dull moment. Vignettes of abstract expression through movement left one deeply thinking until the next monologue.

Each collaborator devised their own monologue based on human experience as well as academic research, documentary footage, and verbatim interviews. (It is important to note that none of them have been in the military.) Fortunately, the text is devoid of any sort of military life fetishization and is instead filled with genuine human stories, words, and worlds. The monologues are fantastic, too. Very well written and poignant.

The design is stunning. Lighting is minimal but effective, capably supporting the narrative and translating the sentiment of a moment. With black curtains surrounding the space and harsh frontal lighting often in play, a dramatic and striking chiaroscuro effect is made. Never have I been so ecstatic about a single point of lighting on a chair, its shadow, and some bodies creating a composition. Sound is equally impressive, with familiar sounds being used to subconsciously cue in transitions and different formulaic parts of the show. Soundscapes are created to stimulate emotion and tone, and it really works. The music used is heavy, filled with bass, and leaves many “mic-drop” moments after a monologue. As you feel the sound design in your chest, you can’t help but connect to the performers’ movements on stage.

I had a small problem with the show that I noticed about halfway through. The ending – without going into detail – flips the previous hour on its head and even more bluntly delivers truths. My issue with the show, however, was addressed at the end, and their acknowledgement turned this concern into a strength based on the self-aware nature of the performers and the direction.

In a piece like this, it is hard to point out a single person as a noteworthy contribution the the work, so it is only fair to say that every single collaboration did an amazing job. With only a few performances left, Docile Bodies stands out as one of my favorites this Fringe. This piece encapsulates ideas I could only grasp at, and delivers them unapologetically. Filled with style and substance, truths, and once again, sheer badassery, I recommend everyone go see it.

Review by Montreal Theatre Hub Fringe Contributor Rahul Gandhi

Wig in a Box presents “Docile Bodies”

When: June 9 – 17, 2017
Where: MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels), 3680 Jeanne-Mance
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!

Rahul Gandhi

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