- Views and Reviews
Friedrich Schiller argued that theatre fills a gap between law and religion, addressing those social faults which are strictly speaking neither illegal nor immoral, but which nevertheless require correction in the interests of pleasant social relations. Dramas that take up ecological themes also take up the corrective role envisioned by Schiller, teaching us how to live nicely with others. None of us can now be ignorant of the crisis of sustainability and environmental ruin in which we are collectively immersed. But in the face of this inconvenient truth, folly, recalcitrance, and selfishness run rampant. We are misers of our privileged Western lifestyle. We are stubbornly myopic as we close our eyes while being exposed to tomorrow's results of today's choices.
Confronting the interpersonal implications of environmental stresses, Daniel Brooks' The Eco Show (Necessary Angel) focuses on the toxic relations of a single family beset by the troubles of a poisoned world. Reviewer Jennifer Wise draws out the connection between the interconnected global ecosystem and that of the oikos—the smaller family ecosystem. In this dystopia, a father straight out of Beckett's Endgame, the wheelchair-bound Hamm, browbeats his family with a paralyzing stream of factoids about the doomed environment. Counter to Hamm's didacticism, the family dreams of nature in all its beauty and wonder, energizing the caring heart against the fearful head.
The second review in the section also tackles a work of eco-drama. Staged by Kendra Fanconi and her company The Only Animal, NiX: Theatre of Snow and Ice presents another (potential) family in a post-environmental apocalypse, an icy world seemingly occupied by only three people: a ten-months pregnant woman, a girl, and a character identified as The Arsonist. Jo Ledingham saw the show in Whistler, BC when it was remounted for inclusion in the Cultural Olympiad last February. In her review, she evaluates the scenographic effect of a theatre environment constructed entirely of snow and ice, and its impact on what she describes as "a strange little story," farcical and surreal.
From the cold of a post-apocalyptic winter to that of outer space, the next views piece evaluates the application of theatre in the service of environmental activism with regard to Guy Laliberté's ambitious planet-wide broadcast Moving Stars and Earth for Water. Canada's first space tourist, Cirque du Soleil founder Laliberté, is the force behind the One Drop Foundation advocating for global access to clean water. Combining lecture, poetry, dance, and music, this "poetic social mission" brought together performers in fourteen cities worldwide and was hosted by Laliberté from his orbital perch on the International Space [End Page 85] Station. Here, Susan Bennett contextualizes this high-profile performance in light of similar celebrity aid concerts to ask what contribution Moving Stars and Earth for Water makes as a socially invested artistic endeavour.
From outer space to site-specific space, the next piece in this section is a book review of Sighting/Citing/Siting, edited by Kathleen Irwin and Rory MacDonald. A tripartite work featuring a collection of essays, catalogue of images, and documentary DVD, this book contextualizes the interdisciplinary performance Crossfiring/Mama Wetotan (Knowhere Productions) occurring at the Claybank Brick Plant National Historic Site (Saskatchewan) in 2006. Calgary-based interdisciplinary artist Eric Moschopedis reviews this book with an eye for recognizing the challenges of documenting performances of this kind and draws an acute analogy between the process and practice of performance to the process and practice of documenting that performance.
Dramatic space shrinks even further in Richard Maxwell's Showcase, a site-specific work set in a generic hotel room. Drawing on Meyerhold's model of interpretation of texts by Maeterlinck, reviewer Sam Stedman connects Meyerhold's desire for a simplification of realism's obsession with worldly details, to Maxwell's challenge to contemporary realism. Stedman spent the day with Maxwell, first attending a workshop and then seeing the theory put into practice in performance. Maxwell's neo-Symbolist approach produces, in Stedman's view, a shift in perspective from "looking in" to "being in," unhinging the division between inside and outside, creating a world that is "simultaneously familiar and strange."