Bites of Life is a serialized, site-specific performance that capitalizes on the passion and creativity of an impassioned indie theatre group (Gleams Theatre). Three short pieces about interconnection by three different authors are performed in an actual hair salon, with two shorter bridge pieces to transition from one to the next. Each piece is bilingual — and not necessarily in French and English. Polish, Bulgarian, Spanish, and even Italian are used. Although theatre, it is very much art. Director and theatre company director, Ira Sokolova explains that she wanted to do something “innovative and a little bit more out of the box.”
As each piece unfolds the other actors and the audience are within the scene itself. In fact it is difficult to judge who is in the show at the outset which provides a puzzle of trying to determine the actors from the audience, something revealed only at the start of each “bite”.
The show unfolds as if the audience is eavesdropping on lighthearted, but life-changing conversations of different scale. This feature allows the audience to feel part of the production itself, which is an element of what Sokolova wants. “I’m a little bit altruistic and humanitarian and I love parties. I’m a hard worker, but I’m a party fan and I love when people meet through art and the art is a celebration and a party, [and people get] to know each other better and even the mood is there. This is a very uplifting for me as a person, not just as an artist.”
The many actors, including Sokolova herself, did a good job in this hyper-proximate piece. After all, the goal is to recreate life, to imitate the natural feel of encountering a conversation between two people. Some were better able to find the perfect balance between acting and toning down the pitch one would use on a stage, but they tended to err on the extreme of being too theatrical. As the serial continues, I suspect they will all hit the right tone.
Although set in an actual salon, the pieces weren’t specific to the place and it just as easily could have been held in any location where a mixed group of men and women are waiting. Although there was some activity related to the salon — putting hair in curlers or brushing hair — more should have been done with the actual salon and it’s paraphernalia. A receptionist? Actual hair washing? As the second piece in the series takes place at a cafe, perhaps this will be easier to replicate.
Overall, Bites of Life is an intriguing snapshot in the lives of others. With parts I and II being shown now, it is worth taking an evening or two to peek into the world of these characters.
Bites of Life Theatre Series, Episode 1: The Introduction and Episode 2: Black Coffee take place until November 30. Episode 1 will be performed on October 27 and November 3 at Coiffure 3 (5256 Sherbrooke St., W., Montreal, QC, H5H 1T) and Episode 2: Black Coffee runs on Thursdays from now until November 30 at Leonidas Culture Chocolate Cafe (318 Victoria Ave). Tickets include some refreshments. Shows are at 8 p.m. $20. There is a Halloween discount for both shows at $30. For tickets contact 514 934-0535 or arrive at 7:45. See Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/141817826412376/permalink/141817846412374/