Poetic meaning

THE FORMER REPUBLIC OF POETRY and VOLUME BY DISPLACEMENT, by Anna Chatterton, Octavia James, Evalyn Parry, Katarina Simeunovich and Chad.


THE FORMER REPUBLIC OF POETRY and VOLUME BY DISPLACEMENT, by Anna Chatterton, Octavia James, Evalyn Parry, Katarina Simeunovich and Chad Hershler. Presented by Collision Physical Theatre at the Tarragon Extra Space (30 Bridgman). Runs to November 12, Tuesday-Saturday at 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $15, stu/underemployed $10, Tuesday and Sunday pwyc. 531-1827. Rating: NNN

The best poetry relies on subtext, an inspiration that apparently directed members of Collision Physical Theatre to the verse of Margaret Atwood and Bronwen Wallace. The Former Republic Of Poetry, which aims to give another level of meaning to works by the Canadian poets, is balanced in the program’s second part by Volume By Displacement, based on a short story by Monique Proulx.

Both halves deal with the Mars/Venus contrast between men and women — attitudes, roles, body language — and the resulting spiky relationships between the sexes. The first is potentially the more striking, but some of the segments are overstated or merely skim the surface. The best moments capture the writing’s wry humour and occasional sense of female fear, many of them delivered by Anna Chatterton, who not only physicalizes but also speaks the poetry with a keen sense of nuance.

It might help if the company had a director — none is credited — or at least an outside eye to help shape the material. It’s fun to see the young actors play a quartet of women and then turn into their male equivalents, but do we need to see it three times to get the point? And the group is still working at physically sharpening, synchronizing and clarifying their characters.

Volume By Displacement, co-directed by Kyla Morrison and Adrian Norman, is better focused. Chatterton and Chad Hershler play both narrators and performers in the chronologically jumbled tale of a couple entangled in a long-term affair. An erotic dance in which the two don’t touch, a trip to Greece, a bout of jealousy — the moments are all landmarks on the pair’s emotional map, with the intentional jumps in time giving emphasis to these two lives, first knit together and later unravelling.

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