Review of Koalas: Intimacy and the Indecision

“To see a play by Félix-Antoine Boutin, is to agree to be part of it,” writes Marie-Claude Verdier in “L’intime comme terrain de jeu (avec cruauté)”, an article about the young playwright.

Graduate of l’École nationale du théâtre in 2012, Félix-Antoine Boudin is the founder of Création Dans la Chambre, and has since produced more than five plays including Koalas, an exploration of the intimacy between human hearts and bodies.

Koalas is a play about love, doubt and loss. It’s a story about realizing that in the end, we are all solely and utterly alone in the vast black pit we call our world. At the center of the play is a love pentagon between two families involving two sisters, a widowed father and his son. Then a third potential male lover joins the love pot. Despondency and tragedy ensues.

KOALAS. Theatre Aujourdhui. Nans Bortuz

KOALAS. Theatre Aujourdhui. Photo Nans Bortuzzo.

The title Koalas is a direct reference to the animal’s inability to differentiate a human body from a tree. Whether it is bark or human flesh, the animal will blindly sink its claws into either body for leverage. The five characters in the play are then metaphorical koalas, hurting each other by clutching and clawing to one another. By clinging so ferociously to each other’s hearts, the characters end up shattering one another.

The play is first and foremost about the limitations caused by doubt and indecision. It is a reflection of our society, where taking action about important, current issues in the world is rendered to mere speech. We talk, and we feel but taking action is scarce. We’re indecisive. We want to act, but we are incapable of taking that first step. We are incapable of moving, doing. That notion, of being stuck in concrete with our head full of words is reflected by the characters who speak in the conditional tense, an emphasis on their inability to do.

They could do such and such, but doubt is too grand. They don’t speak in dialogue, as much as they voice their troubled, inner monologues to one another. These characters are only hovering possibilities, and that’s their tragedy.

 

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By knitting such a complex web of relationships between characters, actors and audience, innovator Félix-Antoine Boudin deconstructs the boundaries between fiction and reality. The characters keep pulling out their scripts from pockets and dresses. They read what they should say, ponder aloud over the text, are distraught by their own fictional place on stage. Located in the intimate Jean-Claude-Germain at the Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui, Koalas blurs the line between audience and actors. The collapse of the fourth wall thrust us into the world of the play. Koalas’s ingenuity resonates through the way it bundles light, music, props, actors, noises, script and the audience for its creation. Félix-Antoine Boutin also worked with his actors on gesticulation to put emphasis on the bestial aspect of the characters.

Written by a brilliant mind, the play was a dream-like experience intersected by sudden nightmarish bursts that literally made me jerk and jump in my seat. I felt the pull. I felt the claws deep in my back.

Koalas is now playing at the Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui (3900 St. Denis) until October25, Tuesday to Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturdays at 8 p.m. $27/21.

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