The Tempest Replica, a dance production by Kid Pivot Performing Art Society, created by Crystal Pite, is hard to describe. It’s not really a performance that can fit within words with syntax and grammar rules. Mostly because it doesn’t unfold by the rules.
The performance has the backbone of the narrative of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and opens with Prospero calling for Ariel. He hands her a paper folded in the shape of a boat and instructs her to create a storm, so that he can have his enemies delivered to him. At this point, the audience is introduced to Jamie Nesbitt’s incredible projection design. Projected on a crinkly, see through sheet, the projection design crackles, illustrating the storm. Dancers, head to toe in white, dance behind the sheet and all of these elements interacting creates an outstanding theatrical effect.
Once the storm is over, the sheet drops and we are introduced to the characters of Shakespeare’s play. Prospero is the only one who is in everyday clothing and this creates a dramatic contrast with all the other characters, who are masked and in white. We are walked through Shakespeare’s play, scene by scene. In fact, the act and scenes are projected in words on the sheet in the back of the stage. Throughout this first segment, there are points where the projection art is spectacular, and other points where is it trite. Interacting with the white of the dancers, it does create an interesting effect. The dancers in this segment are like moving sculptures, controlled and dominated by Prospero.
Though this segment of the performance features immense theatricality and some spectacular shadow puppetry, it isn’t until the second segment that the movement art and Pite’s choreography comes to life.
In the second half, the physical movement explores different relationships and aspects that are depicted in Shakespeare’s Tempest in a real world setting. The dancers shed the white costumes that seemed to constrained them to more robotic movements. Their dancing gets sharp and demanding. There is a line of possession that permeates their movements, illustrating Prospero’s control over everyone in the play and how he slowly lets go. When he releases control, they are free to grow and the lines of the movement becomes more vivid and alive.
One scene of note is the dance between Prospero and Caliban. It features lines from Shakespeare’s play in which Caliban explains that the island is his and he is native to it. The movement in this piece is breathtaking, a constant battle and struggle between these two characters. One can’t help but feel sorry for Caliban, as he is dominated and enslaved by Prospero. This piece features outstanding choreography that beats in your ribcage.
This production would not be what it is without the sound design. Featuring sound effects to accompany the movement, the sound design increases the theatricality of the show. It allows the audience to hear that Ariel’s footsteps sound like heels on the ground, and that Caliban is always breathing heavily. The performance would be un-interesting without the addition of the sound design.
Kid Pivot’s The Tempest Replica is a physical performance art that is a little slow to begin with, but comes alive with sharp and compelling choreography in the second half, featuring Crystal Pite’s unique choreographing style.
The Tempest Replica runs as part of the Fluid Festival until Saturday evening. Tickets and more information is available online.