Mexe (pronounced mesh, Portuguese for ‘move’) is part of the Live Art series at this year’s SummerWorks Festival and it may be one of the more exciting and immersive shows you’re likely to see at the festival.
That’s a tall-order statement, which is proper for a tall-order performance. Mexe, created by Maziar Ghaderi, blends capoeira — the Afro-Brazilian martial art and dance — with music, dance, song, and live sound. Bring your headphones (preferably ones with a longer cord or you can rent one for $2) to experience the ‘3D sound’.
The performance traces the history of capoeira from its roots in Africa to being oppressed in colonial Brazil through slave trade and finally as it stands today as an international phenomenon that spans cultures and age.
Part of the experience involves the concept of wearable technology, where the audience is encouraged to plug in to the experience. The musical aspect of the performance is enhanced by sensors worn by the performers that affects the music. You’ll hear the difference by wearing good headphones. I only had the headphones that came with my iPhone and unfortunately I didn’t notice a big difference in the sound, so I do suggest bringing high quality ones or renting a pair on site.
Mexe happens outdoors at the Shaw Park on the grounds of CAMH at Queen and Shaw. You’ll be sitting on the ground or the provided small outdoor seats, which can get uncomfortable after a while. You’ll want to come prepared either with a blanket or lawn seat, and dress for the weather as the remaining performances happen at 8 pm and the evenings can get cold.
The show itself is superb. The performers include Nathan Pruitt as the boy “Oxossi”, Kimya Hypolite as the girl “Oxum”, Ibo Benna as the man “Oxala”, Lesley Waldron as the woman “Iemanja” and Jafari Moore as the trickster “Exu”. These are all capoeira artists (capoeiristas) or dancers and not necessarily actors, but their chemistry and connection worked really well. I got caught up in the mother/daughter relationship between Waldron and Hypolite just as I did the father/son dynamic from Benna and Pruitt.
But I was thoroughly impressed by Moore as the trickster spirit. His intricate eye mask added depth and animation to his character. I loved how he interacted with the audience who surrounded the performance in a round. He will mock you and maybe sniff your hair, what you would expect from a trickster spirit. There’s certainly a degree of audience participation involved with this show — hard not to considering the performers come within a foot of where you sit. When he gets thrown in the mix, the four recoil in fear and ultimately fall under his spell. The effect feels quite real. When he and Pruitt begin to throw down, things get really exciting.
Mexe is a fun show that draws you in and keeps you locked for an hour. When the five took their final bow, I was sad to see it over. Overall, I found that some moments in the beginning went on a bit longer than I would have ideally liked and I did feel that it ended as the energy was truly picking up, but I’m just nitpicking now — like wanting your new favourite movie to not end so soon.
Though the fun does continue even after the bows as the performers along with fellow capoeiristas take turns greeting each other before letting loose and sparring in front of the clapping crowd. The accompanying live music is great and if you’re like me, you’ll want to get up and dance. The cap off of a mini capoeira lesson provides the chance to get up and get involved.
Mexe: Capoeira X Wearable Technology plays at Shaw Park, the CAMH grounds at Queen St. W and Shaw St.
- Thursday August 13th 8:00 PM
- Friday August 14th 8:00 PM
- Saturday August 15th 8:00 PM
Individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Live Art Series tickets are free – $20. Tickets are available online, 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 Street). 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 of Lesley Waldron and Kimya Hypolite by Sean Stiller.