Night Cows, presented by MoonCow Theatre Co., is a poetic monologue movement piece that takes place in the fantastical realm of night. This theatrical experience blurs the lines between human and non-human worlds, language and the body, and French and English. It’s playing at Factory Theatre Studio, part of the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival.
The action unfolds at night, when a vachette observes her mother transform from beast of burden to mystical creature at the end of a workday. The vachette describes her mother’s beautiful night clothing in vivid detail before the two embark on a magical journey to the Milky Way, where sensuous language is used to describe the bounty of milk, and where the female cows’ desires and bodily functions are unsubjugated by a profit-driven agricultural industry.
They travel to the tundra to wake the crows, and the vachette asks, “Why are the crows so black?” The response: “The night of the doves has fallen on their feathers.”
The crows recount the same story every night, and the vachette is pleased to receive “our female history” from them. She asks why darkness must always follow joy, and why death follows the age of the female. A universal question that goes unanswered.
The play is full of poetic lines such as these and I wanted to listen to them roll off Eléonore Lamothe’s tongue rather than scramble in the dark to write them down. I also didn’t want to miss a moment of Lamothe’s physicality.
Eléonore Lamothe is a phenomenal performer. Her voice is powerful and passionate in both English and French. Every movement is precise as she fully embodies the character of the baby cow in awe of her beautiful mother. Lamothe wears a chest of udders and dons a cow skull mask as she transforms, hazing the border between human and animal.
Director Katey Lois Wattam deserves a huge shout out for the successful incorporation of both movement and playwright Jovette Marchessault’s text. I pulled this from her website: “Wattam approaches theatre as a way of mining her and other bodies for their “blood memory,” uncovering experiences and traumas (past and present) for the purpose of reclaiming and decolonizing bodies, minds, and spaces.” This perfectly encapsulates the feeling I had leaving the theatre, but didn’t quite have the words to express.
In its subtle, lyrical style, both physical and verbal, Night Cows asks us to consider the erroneous belief system that puts humans at the top of an animal hierarchy. It asks us to open up to possibilities that lie beyond the limiting and punitive settler-colonial heteropatriarchy, where we can “redeem the moment we’ll reach the promised land.”
- Night Cows plays at the Factory Theatre Studio. (125 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warnings: mature language; sexual content; not recommended for children.
- The Fringe Festival considers this venue to be wheelchair-accessible.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Wednesday July 3rd, 8:15 pm
- Friday July 5th, 2:00 pm
- Sunday July 7th, 6:15 pm
- Monday July 8th, 4:00 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 7:30 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 10:15 pm
- Sunday July 14th, 2:00 pm
Photo of Eléonore Lamothe by Isaac Mailer