I am going to start by stating my most obvious bias: I am a dancer. This means that when watching (with)out, presented by Lastname Firstname Productions at the Factory Theatre Mainspace as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, I was coming at it from a variety of perspectives.
Since (with)out is part of the Fringe Dance Initiative my first angle of review comes from a dance perspective. Fringe is first and foremost a theatre festival though so I feel it important to approach this review with the theatre audience in mind.
The first thing I would advise an avid theatre goer to do before sitting down in the (with)out audience is to leave the desire to “get it” at the door. This is not to say that the show is without storyline, it simply is not important that you follow every little progression. The four dancers’ movements are abstract, yet emotionally charged. What they are feeling is clear, why they are feeling it is not always so concrete.
There are two couples’ relationships being explored and neither are in a secure place. Anger and frustration are very prominent feelings. For the most part no words are exchanged between them, simply physical interaction.
Instead the words come from the live music composed and performed by James Everett. The dancers are a physical expression of his sultry lyrics and enveloping melodies. For much of the work I felt like I was at a solo show and he had decided to hire contemporary dancers to accompany him.
Maybe it’s that I’m naturally a fan of live acoustic guitar, but I frequently found myself carried away in the music instead of focusing on the dancers. Everett’s songs are rich and inviting to the ear. His lyrics helped fill in the details of what was enfolding in front of me.
This is not to say that the dancers were not talented. They are without a doubt very physically capable individuals. Virgilia Griffith had a raw emotional presence which kept me captivated and wanting more. She was inviting, yet terrifying all at once.
The moments where the dancers were meant to hold the space though were challenging for me. When the emotional intensity would reach its peak frequently Everett’s playing would come to a pause. The discomfort of watching a couple’s intimate interactions was magnified when you realized that in his silence Everett was also having to watch that same uncomfortable moment unfold.
It is clear while watching (with)out that choreographer Patricia Allison has a developed understanding of intimate relationships. It is a key component of her work. For anyone who finds this style of physical exploration intriguing or who loves live guitar and vocal accompaniment this show is worth taking the time check out.
– Friday July 6 at 10:30PM, Sunday July 8 at 8:45PM, Wednesday July 11 at 12PM, Thursday July 12 at 7:30PM, Friday July 13 at 11PM, and Sunday July 15 at 12PM.
– All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $9+$2 service charge).
– Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows.