BLOOD + SOIL by Rouvan Silogix (Theatre ARTaud). At Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson). Runs to May 5. $20-$75..
BLOOD + SOIL by Rouvan Silogix (Theatre ARTaud). At Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace (16 Ryerson). Runs to May 5. $20-$75. 416-504-7529, passemuraille.com. See listing. Rating: NNN
Inspired by Dostoyevskys satirical novel Demons as well as by our nations inner demons this new work from writer/director Rouvan Silogix chronicles the whirlwind cessation, actualization and degradation of a Quebec town reeling from dying industry and federal neglect. Hosted by a pair of ferocious imps (Alexandra Watt Simpson and Morgan Johnson) who directly address the audience and introduce each new chapter with irresistible giddiness, Blood + Soil unfolds in a series of breathless scenes depicting living-room symposiums and town hall meetings.
Following a war of independence, Saint Denis is re-christened Tanganyika and promptly sets out to reopen the local coal mine and embrace open borders. Alas, the Tanganyikans sense of shared vision quickly dissolves. Under the diabolical influence of Lillith (Kayla Jo Farris), who self-describes as both a hypno-psychotherapist and Lord of the Underworld, violent factionalism takes hold of the populace until their every ideal begins to shatter.
Silogix calls Blood + Soil a surrealist parable, which sounds about half-correct. Drawing upon current global manifestations of reactionary nationalism and fear-mongering, as well as historically white-washed genocides Canadas included the play, with its evergreen message of powers inevitable corruptibility, holds a mirror to our most grotesque selves. The story, however, adheres to a perfectly rational causality thats hard to deem surreal, while nothing in the productions aggressively heightened and frequently enjoyable rabid clown style could be considered especially radical. Loaded with allusions to politicized art movements of old, Blood + Soil follows a tradition, albeit one far afield from snoozy modern realism.
The insistent video projections lean a little too hard on facile irony to feel essential, but Ivana Popovics live violin helps bring tonal coherence to the plays frenzied and less frenzied passages. The teeming ensemble, meanwhile, impresses with its willingness to go for broke. Standouts include the inexhaustible Watt Simpson and Johnson, the physically articulate Amaka Umeh and the divertingly ranty Jerry Schaefer as rival presidential candidates, and Sepehr Reybod as a zealous miner and veteran who seems ready at any moment to fight another battle.