SummerWorks review: CAFE SARAJEVO episode I

bluemouth inc.'s immersive, interactive live podcast about difference is an ambitious, if unfocused, work-in-development

CAFE SARAJEVO episode 1 by bluemouth inc (bluemouth inc). At the Toronto Media Arts Centre – Main Gallery. Aug 18 at 6:15 and 9:15 pm, Aug 19 at 6:15 pm. See listing. Rating: NNN

Befitting a show in SummerWorks’ Lab series, this work-in-development by the immersive, site-specific performance art company bluemouth inc. is full of lots of fascinating ideas.

Inspired by a YouTube video of a 1971 televised debate between French theorist Michel Foucault and American philosopher Noam Chomsky, the show tries to make us think about how we approach difference, something that’s worthwhile in an era increasingly characterized by polarized opinion and rhetoric.

At one point we’re divided into two camps, cheering on audience members representing Foucault or Chomsky as they participate in whimsical games. We also don headphones and listen to a live podcast taping involving company members Lucy Simic and Stephen O’Connell‘s trip to Sarajevo, where Simic has roots.

With so much going on – audio, video (projected on a full screen), audience participation, games and individual viewfinders, the show suffers from information overload and occasionally feels scattered. The use of the televised debate never comes into focus.

But the relaxed presentation allows for some powerful moments, such as one in which we learn that the ordering and drinking of coffee in Bosnia can be political.

Ironically, for all the show’s plugged-in, high-tech trappings, one of the most memorable scenes comes at the end, when, led by associate artist/producer Mariel Marshall, we sing – sans headphones – a lilting, haunting Bosnian folk song.

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