Review: Italian Mime Suicide // Three Red Days (Bad New Days)

Rob Feetham, Viktor Lukawski, Miranda Calderon, Adam Paolozza in Italiam Mime SuicideBad New Days presents two starkly different physical performances at Toronto’s Theatre Centre

Italian Mime Suicide // Three Red Days (Bad New Days) is an experimental theatrical production that is perfectly suited for the innovative and nurturing environment that is Toronto’s Theatre Centre. The production incorporates two plays based on anecdotes from two artists. Both rely upon gestures, imagery and metaphors more than dialogue.

The cast of both plays include the same four charismatic performers: Viktor Lukawski, Miranda Calderon, Rob Feetham and Adam Paolozza. Despite the lack of dialogue (or perhaps because of it), the four work together tremendously well, conveying emotions in a more authentic and engaging way than in a lot of traditional, scripted, plays.

The first play, Three Red Days, is inspired by an event in the life of famed Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich. Shostakovich was brought in for interrogation on a Friday and told to return three days later. On the following Monday, he would no doubt be sent away to the gulags (labour camps). Apparently, upon returning, the interrogator had already been sent away, so Shostakovich “dodged a bullet”.

The set and lighting by Anahita Dehbonehie do an excellent job of creating a feel of what it must have been like to be in Stalin’s Russia. For some reason, I recall there being an imposing use red lighting, signifying impending doom. A giant image of “Papa Joe” was displayed as a backdrop, and the “action” took place in a white circle, that almost looked like a Sumo wrestling ring. Music, image and gesture all conspire to transport the audience back to the Soviet Union.

While some might consider it insulting to compare experimental theatre to wrestling, one must admit that professional wrestlers possess an amazing amount of athleticism. Matches are of course staged and choreographed, but an enormous amount of skill, preparation and choreography is necessary to make the event an exciting one. The same can be said of everyone involved with the production of Italian Mime Suicide // Three Red Days.

The three male actors all play Shostakovich in Three Red Days, with Miranda Calderon playing “The Interrogator”. The four almost do wrestle at times. There’s tumbling, tussling and pulling on their briefcases as if they were anchors. One case is opened and represents a specific challenge for Shostakovich to wrestle with. Without giving too much more away, it is a very vivid and inventive scene. Like the entire play, it is dream-like and surreal.

Stan, my guest for the evening, quite enjoyed Three Red Days. We both had similar yet different interpretations and we agreed that it was fun, challenging and healthy to see something that was a bit challenging and ‘out there’.

Italian Mime Suicide is an even more challenging piece. It is a conceptual and thought-provoking piece that dares its audience to think and interpret. No conclusions are entirely correct or completely false. As the name suggests, this is more of what one might think of when they think of mime. I don’t want to call Three Red Days slapstick, because that would reduce it to the hijinks one sees in The Three Stooges. There IS a physicality to both plays, but it challenges our cognitive faculties, not our baser ones.

Italian Mime Suicide is based on a mime committing suicide because he doesn’t think his art matters anymore. During the play descriptions of mime and why it matters are projected on the screen behind the stage. As someone who knows nothing about mime, I found this helpful towards giving me a better understanding of the art form. Displayed in English, they are also read in a language I didn’t recognize. This really drove home the point about language being secondary to non-verbal communication.

I thought the most brilliant scene in Italian Mime Suicide was when the performers mime an insipid conversation from a morning television show. I’ll probably remember the plays for a long time, but this scene in particular will definitely stay with me.

Overall, Stan and I really enjoyed the show and thought it was a great night out. I highly recommend it.

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Photo of Rob Feetham, Viktor Lukawski, Miranda Calderon and Adam Paolozza by John Gundy.