How to Relax and Dolphin are two compelling pieces of movement-based theatre at this year’s SummerWorks Festival that you won’t want to miss out on.
How to Relax is a striking sensory exploration of how a process of personal transformation could take form within the context of a group. This piece really succeeds by artfully guiding the audience through the interplay of the internally-felt experience, and the way an individual expresses themselves within a larger collective.
How to Relax resonates as an original work. It was co-created and directed by Alison Daley and Jenny Laiwint; performed by Dequan Clarke, Sky Fairchild-Waller, Amanda Paixao, Denise Solleza, and Syntiche Tshidimu.
The dance and movement in this piece was visually arresting, particularly a scene where one performer—who was fully ‘relaxed’ and rather limp, was being supported and carried by the rest of the group. It should be noted however, that How to Relax is an astoundingly immersive half-an-hour due to the expert sound design created by Laura Dickens and Jenny Laiwint.
The soundscape seamlessly allowed the internal thoughts of a performer to be expressed in tandem with their physical movements. It was also a playful way to invite the audience into this process of ‘psychotechniques’ — the performers embodied different points of embracing the process and the audience had space to identify with any doubts or analytical thoughts that would prevent one from relaxing.
The sound also created an effect that seemed to dissolve any barrier between audience and performer, which extended the performance space, making it more immersive in a wonderfully subtle way. By incorporating sounds of a crowd that the performers responded to, for example, the overall energy was enhanced. The actors even interacted with the audience directly (don’t worry though — if you’re on the shy side, there is no need to expect any actual audience participation).
How to Relax is indeed obscure at times, but is definitely a show anyone who’s ever tried to ‘relax’ would enjoy, by highlighting the entertaining and challenging aspects of a full body meditation experience.
Dolphin, the second show of this double bill, is presented by Rock Bottom Movement and is choreographed by Alyssa Martin. Dolphin continues on where How to Relax leaves off — but takes it in a completely different direction. The characters in Dolphin also undergo some group relaxation techniques, but it’s pretty clear that they’re hilariously the furthest thing from calm. This show is an outrageously out-of-control kind of entertaining but is executed with utmost precision in the most polished fashion.
It’s like watching children on a sugar-high romp around gleefully playing dress-up. Only instead of candy, these characters are drinking cocktails, and there is a bit more stripping-down than dressing-up. This isn’t to say it’s a sexually provocative piece, it’s just a bizarre mash-up of the themes and characters from Gossip Girl but with child-like fun.
The costumes, designed by Kelsey Wilson, are delightful, with vivid costume-box-cotton-candy kind of colours that is perfect for prancing about in, dolphin-style. If you’re puzzled about how dolphins fit into all of this, it’ll make sense once you see it.
This is a whirlwind of a show. The collective of performers are effortlessly in sync and will ramp up your energy while transporting you into another dream realm. Samantha Grist as Blair Waldorf and Drew Berry as Jenny Humphrey, in particular, are mesmerizing to watch.
Dolphin is a show that is unique, unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It’s a rambunctious spectacle ridden with wordplay, impressive physicality and the most cohesive, visually alluring aesthetic. It’ll have you grinning from ear to ear the entire time.
How to Relax and Dolphin are part of a double bill, playing at the Theatre Center at 1115 Queen Street West.
* The August 6 show has been designated as a Relaxed Performance.
SummerWorks tickets are now Pay What You Decide at $15, $25, or $35, whichever suits your budget. All tickets are general admission and there are no limits to any price level. Tickets are available at the performance venue (cash only), online and in person at the SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street). Open August 1-13 from 10am-7pm. Cash and credit accepted.
Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 7 shows.
Latecomers will not be permitted to enter this event.
Audience Advisory: Please be advised that Dolphin contains partial nudity, coarse language, and loud music (14+) and may be suitable for more mature audiences.
Photo by Jennifer Laiwint