Wildside Review: Cat Kidd captivates in poetic masterwork “Hyena Subpoena”

Special Festival Coverage

In the hierarchy of artistry, Cat Kidd is at the top of the food chain.

Returning to home turf to remount her masterwork at Centaur Theatre’s Wildside, the poet’s vigorous solo show has been touring internationally (and amassing accolades) since first opening in Montreal in 2011. Its pulse has yet to fade, however, as we are held captive by this one hour, one woman, tour de force performance – decidedly one of the high points of this edition of the festival thus far.

Inspired by a trip to South Africa in 2007, Hyena Subpoena transports onlookers to a campsite in Kruger Park where narrator Mona Morse recounts her intimate explorations and encounters with wildlife: lions, antelopes, elephants, birds, and her beloved hyena – a symbol for the marginalized and the misunderstood. Through a six-part series of original prose poems, we are fronted with fascinating curiosities on the dynamics of animal behaviours and populations. Matters of life, death, disease, and survival in the animal kingdom, however, are soon enough transposed to the human world as Mona begins to reveal the details of her own troubled youth.

The poeticism of the piece is the first to strike; Kidd is a world-class wordsmith and the constant flow of articulate, lyrical speech is inarguably the most exquisite aspect of this composition. Each spoken word is rigorously measured, and the resulting language is hypnotic in its rhyme and rhythm.

The multimedia production, here directed by Paul van Dyck, is set to Jacky Murda’s live soundscape and enhanced by the South African film footage collected by Kidd and Geoff Agombar during their travels. Tents, sheets, and water coolers serve as crafty projection surfaces for videos and titles. As Hyena Subpoena is intensely verbose (active listening is required throughout), the visual installations are not an unwelcome addition, but they can easily threaten to divert one’s sensorial focus. And any missed line of uttered witticism is a calamity.

Kidd’s mesmeric stage charisma, prowess in gesture, and vocal quality alone, though, should hold. The performance is an actor’s masterclass in the physical embodiment of text, for our storyteller is a kinetic presence with a gift for characterization through movement. It’s a confident, competent act (she knows this material like the back of her hand, and it shows.)

Fierce and furious, comical yet poignant, Hyena Subpoena ultimately succeeds in making the most nimble of analogies between the human and the bestial. Whimsical treatment of themes such as the imbalance, injustice, cycles, patterns, autonomy, and randomness in nature make for a compelling study of creatures – including those lurking deep within. Ferociously captivating and electrifying.

The 2019 Wildside Festival presents Cat Kidd’s Hyena Subpoena.

Performances: Jan. 10 at 7pm, Jan. 13 at 7pm, Jan. 15 at 7pm, Jan. 17 at 7pm, & Jan 20 at 3pm.
Duration: 60 minutes
Venue: Centaur Theatre | 453 St Francois Xavier St.
Warning: Contains discussion of sexual violence
Admission: $16 Adults | $13 Students/Seniors/Under 30s
Box Office: 514-288-3161 | www.centaurtheatre.com/wildside-festival

For more 2019 Wildside Festival reviews, head over to www.montrealtheatrehub.com/wildside-festival-2019/

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