The Hearn is imposing even from a distance, and Monumental even more so within the space. Even when you are not sure how to get there, you can see the giant smoke stack stabbing into the sky. It is the perfect place to be washed in the music of post-rockers Godspeed You! Black Emperor, entranced and horrified by the movements of Holy Body Tattoo, and lost in consideration of the text that appears on three large screens that frame the stage. This is an immersive experience. You are small, and the industrial world is in decay. It is a terrible, and beautiful, and profoundly bodily experience.
(to reinforce this fact there is there no program.)
The Hearn is the kind of epic stage needed for such an endeavor. Giant metal bones reach upward to the concrete shell, metal pipes and cables hang, cut and without purpose. On stage, nine dancers, dressed in the business wear of a cubicle worker with no seniority but who really need the job stand on lit pedestals. The pedestals might be their individual cubicles, the towers of the downtown core, transporters that never work. The workers are tortured, they itch, they scratch, they tear at their hair, they beseech, they point, in isolation, they make the same moves, alone and together. As they suffer and tire, they fall off their pedestals, and try desperately to return to them. As the towers fall, they reach out to each other, they fight, they manipulate each other, they fall and catch each other, but always return to fighting. The end of the world is terrible, and the people there are terrible too.
It was thirty minutes past the start time when we were finally allowed into the performance space, to discover that every seat had a pair of earplugs on them. However, earplugs will not protect your eyes, nor will it stop your mind, and thus they offer totally inadequate protection. Probably on purpose.
I find it quite difficult to “review” this show — it utterly works, that’s all. It’s brilliant, moving, and totally immersive like a wave; it sucks you in and spits you out when it wants to, regardless of your need for respite. When I was done I found it hard to comment or critique on matters like the lighting or costumes. They were just right for the thing. Everything was.
After the dancers have been moved to exhaustion, after they have broken down, again, and again, cast out each other, been subject to plagues and discomfort, and become simply bodies on the floor, the deep voice I remember from Godspeed! You Black Emperor’s The Dead Flag Blues on F♯A♯∞ floods the Hearn with music one last time like a requiem of the experience, leaving the audience to grapple with its ghost.
- Monumental played for two nights at Luminato, June 14th and 15th, 2016.
- Many excellent performances and installations remain open at The Hearn through the end of the festival on June 26th.