HYPER_ (Freya Olafson) 2015 SummerWorks Review


Upon entering the theatre, the volunteer in the yellow shirt hands me a pair of 3D glasses; it’s the first time I’ve needed them for a live theatre show. That was the first of many surprises in HYPER_, a show that blends dance and interactive multimedia elements, performed and created by Winnipeg-based artist Freya Björg Olafson and presented in Toronto as part of the SummerWorks Festival

Olafson performs behind a black scrim and interacts with projected images of herself at various points throughout the show. Sometimes these projections are created in real-time with the help of a discreetly placed downstage camera that films her every move.

Her projected image is repeated in triplicate with each individual form moving with a slight time-delay from the last. The effect is often dazzling.

The use of the 3D glasses is optional and while the perception of depth does look cool for a while, I’m not convinced the effort is entirely worthwhile and you won’t miss anything really significant if you choose to opt out of the 3D elements.

I get the sense that Olafson aims to deconstruct the presentation of the female body, and in HYPER_ the deconstruction is represented quite literally. Olafson first appears in a floor-length black dress devoid of shape or detail; intentionally hiding the dancer’s form and constricting her movements. Later, she dons a full body suit that makes it look as if all of her skin has been stripped off, revealing her muscle and sinew.

She then emerges as a skeleton; the striking effect is achieved using body paint that glows under UV light. Finally, the dancer’s entire form disappears and we only see the rhythmic gymnastic ribbons she manipulates illuminated in black light. The choreography becomes increasingly freer and more flowing the more stripped down the dancer’s body becomes.

I think the show works very well as a visual art installation, as the execution is fascinating.

I was pretty fixated on the technology in the show and was constantly trying to figure out how each effect was being achieved. I think the invariability of the tone from scene to scene may have been a factor as to why I was more engaged with the technology being used to execute the show rather than the content of the show itself.

Regardless, the show looks cool, there are a lot of techniques and  technologies that we don’t regularly get to see on stage in Toronto and it feels experimental and cutting-edge.


HYPER_ plays at The Theatre Centre Mainspace
1115 Queen Street West

Show times:

  • Friday August 7th 5:15 PM
  • Sunday August 9th 2:00 PM
  • Wednesday August 12th 4:45 PM
  • Thursday August 13th 7:15 PM
  • Friday August 14th 9:30 PM
  • Saturday August 15th 6:30 PM
  • Sunday August 16th 5:45 PM

Individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Live Art Series tickets are free – $20. Tickets are available online at http://summerworks.ca, by phone at 888-328-8384, Monday – Friday 8:30am-5pm, in person at the SummerWorks Info Booth – located at SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St). Open August 4-16 from 10am-7pm (Advance tickets are $15 + service fee)

Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows

Photo provided by the company