The 13th édition of Montreal’s Festival TransAmériques premieres Marc Béland’s and Alix Dufresne’s “Hidden Paradise”, the creative retelling of an interview with economist Alain Deneault on the effects of tax havens and evasion.
In February 2015, Marie-France Bazzo hosted an interview on Ici Radio-Canada’s “C’est pas trop tôt!” that discussed billions of Canadian dollars hidden overseas in tax havens. Most listeners probably heard the segment once, absent minded or whilst sitting in traffic. Two creators, however, proceeded to transform its every word into a full body experience.
In a creative process that spanned three years, performers Alix Dufresne and Marc Béland memorized the radio transcription – stutters and fumbles included – and developed rhythmic movement to express the vulnerability and rage that the radical discourse ignited. Dance and speech are here warped to elicit new emotions in each retelling of the interview. Laughter and fear are evoked through physicalization in reaction to the text.
The performance begins with the audience looking down on an empty stage with a perfect square taped to the floor. The duo of actors enter with a large floor mat. When they roll it out, they realize it doesn’t fit the confines of the square. This simple set up immediately establishes a tone for the show of both frustration and humour.
Next enters a radio, which plays a recording of the original interview. For the following hour the rest of the space is filled exclusively by the performers’ movement. They use every inch of it – often even exceeding the limits of the set stage. Masterful lighting transforms its size and energy between repetitions. Each segment transports us to a new environment.
The only dialogue spoken is that extracted from the interview, and it is repeated in verbatim multiple times throughout the piece to allow the audience to fully absorb the weight of the information they’re receiving (English surtitles are displayed in unison with the French speech). Each time the message is delivered with a different reaction or emotion. In the first segment, the dance is slow, intimate, and eccentric as the actors morph to take on shapes that intertwine their bodies. The scene plays out again, they zoom through the discourse side by side, and then they draw it out with their bodies until it becomes almost unintelligible. Dufresne and Béland demonstrate trust and respect onstage that allows them to flow with the changing dynamics. Each repetition is a new adventure, and the audience is taken to the edge of their seats every time Bazzo’s character rewinds to begin with, “Mr. Deneault, bonjour.”
Seemingly complicated or irrelevant, the topic of tax havens may not immediately strike a chord of interest in many theatre-lovers’ repertoire. The mastery of this piece, however, is that it presents a consumable and convincing argument on why tax havens need to be strictly regulated in order to improve the quality of daily life. Economist Alain Deneault divulges that the billions of tax dollars hidden overseas could otherwise be used to fund community initiatives, school programs, arts, theatre, and public health care. Everyday, society suffers from the lost dollars that help the wealthy stay rich and leave the public scraping pennies to pay the rising taxes. Banks are expected to solve the crisis, but it is they that most profit. “We’re asking pyromaniacs to put out fires,” says Deneault.
“Hidden Paradise” is a spirited interpretation of a powerful argument that deserves retelling. An absurd, chaotic, and thoughtful performance would interest a wider audience than the subject matter suggests. Keep an open mind, enjoy the madness, and heed the message.
To listen to the Radio-Canada interview: http://ici.radio-canada.ca/emissions/c_est_pas_trop_tot/2014-2015/chronique.asp?idChronique=362850
The 13th Annual Festival TransAmériques presents
Marc Béland + Alix Dufresne
May 25 + 26 + 27 + 28 at 7pm & May 26 at 1pm
1 hour duration
In French with English surtitles
1182, boulevard Saint-Laurent
514 844 3822 / 1 866 984 3822