PERFECTION (Mark Correia) and The Chemical Valley Project (Broadleaf Theatre) 2017 SummerWorks Review

Photo of Mark Correia by Tyler Williams

Mystifying. Hilarious. Smart. Entertaining. Neurotically planned. Expertly executed. These are all words that accurately describe PERFECTION, until everything goes wrong…or does it?Mark Correia‘s show, playing at SummerWorks festival 2017 as paired with The Chemical Valley Project, entices us with every magical move (and those big blue eyes), making for a quality show, as long as you like your magic shows a little stressful.

In PERFECTION, the stage is set with signage declaring Correia’s perfection in all spheres, a big blow up of his handsome grinning face, as well as a table of meticulously staged colourful props…
Which he then proceeds to hurl himself at in a spectacularly disastrous misstep, a rainbow of objects splashing across the floor as he crumples in a defeated, not at all perfect heap.
Although, of course, it is. Perfect.
His entire “everything is going wrong” setup, timing, charisma, it’s all, well, perfect. It’s so perfect that moments of mistake, fumbling, and even injury, have us wondering, “Is this real?”
Such is the question that every magician wants an audience to ask, and at one pivotal point, some audience members really were –aloud, concerned for his safety but also knowing somewhere inside that it’s all tricks; but also, is it?!?
Hence the stressful appointment of this show. Risks of bodily harm leave us groaning, wincing, and peeking through our fingers, terrified and overjoyed at the thrill.
The tricks themselves are all effortless and perfectly poised for tension. We’re primed to care deeply about our magician’s success, and he delivers with professional (un)ease.
The lighting and sound design serve the production well. Illustrious starkness when we don’t like what we see and vibrant colour when we do (as pre-decided by our onstage mastermind) continue the magic into the technical world.
A warning about realistic blood would have been appreciated. While there is very little of it/it’s in the promo photo, sensitive audience members should be aware. The fact that you’re wondering whether it’s real makes it particularly triggering.
PERFECTION is impeccably crafted, fastidiously refined, and genuinely jarring, this is a magic show with the rare quality of feeling actually magical, through the unorthodox lens of ‘real life’ happening. Truly clever, and highly recommended.

The Chemical Valley Project by Broadleaf Theatre is a unique take on political theatre. Part info session, part moody projection art, this authentic show educates and tells a heartfelt story about colonialism, environmental racism, and the very real role those forces play in the lives of the Aamjiwnaang people, and in all of us.

Aamjiwnaang is an Indigenous community surrounded by big-money petrochemical plants, and they are suffering both physically and culturally because of it. Co-creator and solo performer Kevin Matthew Wong, intrigued by a protest against pipeline 9, researched the people there to create this piece.

In Aamjiwnaang, Wong interviews environmentalists and Indigenous sisters Vanessa and Lindsay Gray, whose voices overlay large segments of this production. Wong explores the reasons for the protest, the arrest of protesters, the lack of conviction against them, and the greater, ancient toxicity behind it all.

Wong performs as himself, with only the light of a simple mobile clip lamp in his hand, and the nuanced work of projections on both the wall and a medium-sized white cloth draped on a table. He makes good use of this convention, maintaining a visually interesting array of presentations of this cloth. The total lack of any technical issues demonstrate the calm hand of subtle precision this show was clearly built with.

This dark and stark atmosphere leaves me leaning in, feeling exclusively invited to one man’s intimate feelings about a disturbingly broad issue.

That’s part of what makes this show so striking: the total lack of righteous anger that usually accompanies political theatre. As a person who easily leans toward that anger myself when faced with such injustices, it leaves me to discover my own revelations, and in doing so, hold ownership over them. No imposition is found on this stage. It’s so doggone impactful, I can only congratulate this team on their wisdom and bravery to use their unique voice.

The singular weak point of this show is Wong’s tendency to undercut his power with many “uhs” and “ahs”. Perhaps this makes it even more genuine, but for me, I wish he would simply trust the words which are so clearly close to his heart.

It’s my hope that the subtle nature of this show is not lost on audiences this summer. Given the swarm of people surrounding Wong post-show, burbling with lively questions, I doubt it will be. I highly recommend seeing this show for the important reality it exposes. To its diligent creators: thank you.

Details:

Perfection and The Chemical Valley Project play at the Pia Bouman Scotiabank Studio Theatre, 6 Noble Street. (Box office is in front, theatre entrance is around back.)

Remaining performances:

  • Sunday August 6th 3:30pm – 4:45pm
  • Monday August 7th 8:00pm – 9:15pm
  • Wednesday August 9th 8:00pm – 9:15pm
  • Friday August 11th 6:00pm – 7:15pm
  • Saturday August 12th 1:45pm – 3:00pm
  • Sunday August 13th 6:30pm – 7:45pm

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.

Audience Advisory: PERFECTION contains scenes of physical violence, viewer discretion is advised.

Image of Mark Correia by Tyler Williams

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