I Know You Are But What Am I?
First: if you see one dance show this Fringe, this is the show you must see.
A few weeks ago, I saw The Sound of Metal, a film about a drummer in a two-person heavy metal-punk band who suddenly loses his hearing. In a desperate to prevent him from backsliding into addiction, he is rushed by his girlfriend into a deaf community that does not treat hearing loss as a disability. For months, I’ve wanted to talk to someone about this subtle and moving piece. When I first started watching, I turned it off in the first ten minutes, because the prospect of a drummer losing his hearing and his agony distressed me more than I could handle at the time. But, I had to know what happened and a few weeks later, I watched it in totality. The film still sits with me, unresolved and undiscussed, as I grapple with its treatment of loss, addiction, community, and compromise. Life does not give us what we want. We have to find a way to be with what is.
The impact of hearing loss (or vision loss or mobility loss) as an adult strikes many of us as a kind of horror. It’s the subject of getting-to-know-you questions, like, “Which sense would you rather give up… sight or hearing?” As if one could choose! We consider hearing and sight so fundamental to our experience with the world.
I Know You Are But What Am I by director, choreographer, and dancer Cai Glover takes on the theme of hearing loss in a powerful and just visceral way. “We witness the disorienting experience of an individual becoming confronted by the disabling allowances of his world after losing his hearing,” says the brief blurb. I’m not sure if the work is autobiographical, but Glover wears a hearing implant in one ear and a hearing device in the other. So at the very least, he understands the experience of hearing loss.
In this work, Glover is joined by two dancers, Caroline Namts, Léa Noblet Di Ziranaldi, and the three engage in a beautiful story of torment in which the inevitable is inescapable. Glover dances his struggle and fights to resist, finally yielding to what is but it is only a feint. He fights back again. This dance is then transferred from Glover to the other two, where we see the loving but firm movements of Di Ziranaldi force Namts to be with what is. Namts puts up a heroic and pained resistance as her knees are kicked out and she is held by the shirts in precariously tormented backbends. Namts then brings the dance back to Glover and they communicate in sign language and with their bodies. I was brought to tears multiple times in the pathos this show evoked. The desperation, the defiance, and that agôn, that competitive strife and struggle, was so real, as was the reluctant resignation. Even in that unwitting acceptance, there was such delicate magnificence. A great show. A not miss.
I Know You Are but What Am I? is at the Studio Multimédia du Conservatoire on June 11 (19:45), 15 (22:00), 17 (18:45), and 18 (14:15). Tickets HERE.
Field Zoology 101
First, the music came on twice. Then, when it came time to show slides, Dr. Brad Gooseberry informs us that his slide projector has fallen in a swamp and he must hold his transparencies against a screen instead. Can we see them? Yes. I never would have known these two mishaps were real stage-accidents, because they so seamlessly fit with the intended parts of this brilliant comedy. Playwright and actor Shawn O’Hara should consider keeping both happy accidents!
A combination of David Attenborough, Indiana Jones, and a touch Steve Irwin, Dr. Gooseberry leads the audience through his class, Field Zoology 101. He discusses fields, zoology, and, of course, specific animals. The character of Dr. Gooseberry is so charismatically charming with his cargo shorts, Tilley hat, goofy moustache, and personal observations that I wish he were on CBC every week telling us about pea-cócks (emphasis cock) and how to kill a hippo. Every joke hits. None go on too long. There’s plenty of variety. The audience interaction is a delight. This is Fringe gold. Field Zoology 101 is precisely the reason for Fringe Festivals. A must see!
Field Zoology 101 is at Mission Santa Cruz on June 10 (15:45), 12 (19:45), 14 (22:45), 16 (21:15), and 18 (17:15). Tickets HERE.
After seeing this one-man show, I Iooked up Exodus 20:20: “Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.'” Feeling rather clever, I then searched for exit 20, but there are a lot of Exit 20s in the US. I was hoping to discover a serendipitous relationship with the Biblical passage, that number exit, and the Tennessee School Board that banned Maus, a graphic novel of the Holocaust in January 2022 for its inappropriate language and depiction of a nude woman. My hunt was not successful, but someone else surely has more time to devote to the task.
In Exit 20:20, playwright and actor David Thill interweaves the Biblical story of Moses with contemporary high school book bans, particularly around the graphic novel Maus. Thill plays Moses, a 16-year-old who becomes the leader of the Jews of the Great Lakes High School after the ban and stands up to his nemesis, his arrogant power mongering older brother Ray, President of the school board. As Moses speaks to God and learns his true identity as a Jew, he redacts the original story of Biblical Moses and tries to rewrite it with his own. As the show progresses, some of its deeper questions about how one uses power and why we must learn from the past.
The satire in the show is spot on and Thill is committed. He’s not afraid to slay on some semi-sacred cows either. It’s smart comedy and you get to find out just how bloodthirsty your fellow audience members are at the end.
This one’s headed to the Edinburgh Fringe (the Mother Fringe)… so catch it here before it goes there. Exit 20:20 is at Mission Santa Cruz June 10 (22:30), 11 (13:45), 14 (19:15), 17 (23:00), and 18 (15:00). Tickets HERE.
The Montreal Fringe Festival continues until June 18. Tickets for all shows available HERE.