Wildside Review: Scapegoat Carnivale’s “Sapientia” retells a classic through riveting object theatre creation

Special Festival Coverage

The cast of Scapegoat Carnivale’s “Sapientia”: Paul Van Dyck, Robert Leveroos, Alex Petrachuk and Alison Darcy (Photo: Patrick Andrew Boivin)

After having premiered and played to sold out audiences at the MainLine Theatre this past August, Scapegoat Carnivale brings back the shiny objects that amassed it lustrous, statuesque thingamajigs of its own (the company is the recipient of two 2018 Montreal English Theatre Awards – including Outstanding Independent Production) in a celebrated remount at the Centaur.

Ordinary mirrors, teacups, espresso makers, and flashlights are the extraordinary allegorical characters of Sapientia, the ingenious and irreverent masterwork by its award-winning creatives. A piece of Object Theatre/Puppetry (the second in the genre to open at this year’s Wildside Festival), everyday household items are animated in hand to depict the story at hand, summoning onlookers’ active imaginations.

Originally written by 10th century German secular canoness Hrosvitha of Gandersheim – also known as the first female playwright of the Latin languages – the medieval play has been adapted by Scapegoat Carnivale co-Artistic Director Joseph Shragge from a literal translation of the Latin text by Lynn Kozak. The resulting work, here directed and conceptualized by Mia van Leeuwen, dramaturged by Anthony Kennedy, and stage managed by David Epstein, is a “grotesquely comic”, fun, easy-to-follow, and outlandish retelling of a violent classic on ideological extremism.

Scapegoat Carnivale’s “Sapientia” features live music and foley sound effects by Joseph Browne and Evan Stepanian, lighting by Bruno-Pierre Houle, and set design by Robert Leveroos. (Photo: Patrick Andrew Boivin)

In it, the devout noblewoman Sapientia (Alison Darcy) and her three virginal daughters Faith, Hope and Charity (Alex Petrachuk), upon their arrival in Rome, are called before the Emperor Hadrian (Robert Leveroos) and his henchman Antiochus (Paul Van Dyck). The Christian women resolutely resist the tyrannical emperor’s demands to worship the state’s Pagan Gods, and, in his religious persecution, orders the execution of the children. Sapientia sequentially martyrs her tender-aged offspring, each as serene as the next in their embrace of death. What ensues is a miraculous, divine intervention of pain giving way to ecstasy.

The revived production, while not best suited to the new, larger venue (most of the action takes place within the confines of a kitchen countertop), proves engulfing nonetheless. Piercing imagery, evenly skilled performances, and a whimsical narrative make for a compelling theatrical affair.

It should be prudent of us to note that the gruesome torture scenes may be triggering to some audiences (herein the value of the non-living stand-ins to take the beatings and burnings – although it arguably doesn’t make it all much less consternating). Others will cope with laughter. Whatever the reaction, expect the visceral.

Scapegoat Carnivale enthrals once again with a striking creation bearing its trademark eccentricity. Miss not one of its three presentations at the Wildside – unequivocally a highlight of the fest.

The 2019 Wildside Festival presents Scapegoat Carnivale’s Sapientia

Performances: Jan. 17 at 9pm, Jan. 18 at 9pm, and Jan 19 at 3pm.
Duration: 45 minutes
Venue: Centaur Theatre | 453 St Francois Xavier St.
Warning: Age 12+ recommended. This production shows and discusses violence against women and children.
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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