Immersive theatre meets dance in this piece set in a technological surveillance State
Exciting and immersive, Jacqueries Part 2 transforms the Citadel + Compagnie theatre into a stark surveillance state. Mixing technology, dance and audience engagement; coder and choreographer Jacob Niedzwiecki leads the audience through this beautiful yet grim world.
Harsh lighting and strict paths made of banker boxes and barrier belts lead you to stern-faced performers. They ask if you are comfortable giving up your phone and passcode.
As you continue along the confined path further into this stringent world, you meet a different set of unapologetically emotionless performers in roles as ‘officials’. They ask questions – intrusive ones. The answers to these intrusive questions; like your step count and the last person you texted, are written down on a piece of paper, which you wear around your neck throughout the performance.
If you opted-in for your phone to be a part of the performance, you no longer control it. You are asked to place this in the provided lanyard too. Then place your other belongings in a box, which is taken away by a performer to an unseen location.
Audience members are active participants in the performance. We are seamlessly led to different locations in the room and given different tasks – such as building a structure of boxes. These structures become the dance space for the performers, which we see by peaking through holes in its walls.
Contemporary dance sequences intersperse audience tasks. The beautiful choreography uses the props in the space. I enjoyed the use of the crowd control black barrier belts – the kind you might see in line at the movies – as the dancers manoeuvred above, below and around the poles and fabric.
During this particular sequence, the co-oped phones-in-lanyards had their flashlights turned on remotely. The audience circling the performers were suddenly part of the lighting design, highlighting them as they performed. The technology and production of the show were flawless, which is rare for its complexity.
The strongest point of the performance lay in a striking use of dance and technology. Boxes create two hallways, divided by a see-through screen. Dancers are on either side of the space, however, appear to performer together through projection – I’m not technically savvy enough to understand how it works. It creates a new kind of duet, in which dancers can walk through each other, and physically fight without getting hurt. In this case, the performers act out an intense interrogation scene fitting in with the surveillance plot.
My only issue with the performance is the lack of information online. For such a technically savvy show, it would do well to have a website and social media accounts. Any information I happened upon online was for the 2014 performance of Jacqueries Part 1.
Jacqueries Part 2 is a thoughtful work with many interesting details hidden in its fabric. In the post-show talkback, an audience member remarked its similarity to Sleep No More. An incredibly successful immersive dance theatre experience in New York City. I’m excited that this city can get a taste of this new type of work.
Photo by Vish Hansa