Review: Declarations (Canadian Stage)

Canadian Stage presents the latest production by Jordan Tannahill at the Berkeley in Toronto

Jordan Tannahill, the mastermind behind Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom, returns to Canadian Stage with Declarations — a unique and certainly unusual multidisciplinary exploration of memories, the here and now, and what will transpire. It’s an introspective look at mortality, that of Tannahill’s own, his mother’s and of mankind.

This performance combines a non-linear script presented in an almost spoken word manner with improvised movements that are made up on the spot, meaning no two performances will be alike. What transpires on stage is surreal, metaphoric, and entirely up for interpretation.

Unfortunately, it just didn’t speak to me — I’m not someone who gets much out of interpretive movement pieces paired with spoken word covering a loose narrative. Though I admire the work from the performers, who did a fine job with the script and the direction given to them, Declarations as a whole just didn’t do much for me at all.

The performance starts with a single performer on stage — Liz Peterson — delivering “This Is…” statements (“this is my mother, this is my mother as a child, this is me trying to remember your name at a party…”) and pairing them with an improvised movement before other performers joined her on stage. As the movements are spontaneous and need to match the given dialogue, the script is actually scrolling on teleprompters for the actors, I could read the script by turning my head while they were performing.

Gradually, five actors occupy the stage and their statements and movements intersect and intertwine — at times cohesively with one another, at other times creating chaos and dissonance. Their movements evolving from simplistic gestures to complex full-body dance moves. Robert Abubo, the fifth performer to take the stage, is clearly a strong dancer with great core and leg strength that showed in his ability to drop to the floor and pick himself back up hands free.

The narrative behind Tannahill exploring mortality is woven into these statements and movements, and though I do believe I see what he intended — encapsulating the micro moments that a lifetime is made of that are often ignored until the moment when mortality becomes eminent — I just don’t feel personally connected with the way this story was presented.

If I were to point out aspects of Declarations that did pique my interest, they’d be the parts near the end: the highly energetic “Shake!” dance and a very moving story about his mother, the only piece spoken in regular speech rather than fragments.

Having seen Declarations, I know it’s not something I’d be interested in seeing again, as I just didn’t get anything out of it. That’s not to say that you won’t if this kind of theatre is right up your alley.


  • Declarations is playing at the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street) until February 11, 2018.
  • Performances run Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 pm, Friday performances at 7 pm, weekend matinees at 1 pm. Extra matinee on Wednesday, January 31.
  • Tickets range from $35 – $39 and can be purchased online, in person at the box office or by calling 416 368 3110.
  • Run time: 70 minutes
  • Audience Advisory: This production contains strobe lighting

Photo of Jennifer Dahl, Robert Abubo, Philip Nozuka, Liz Peterson, Danielle Baskerville by Alejandro Santiago

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