The ambitious Africa Trilogy paid off.
This year's festival was busy, but in terms of theatre and dance it wasn't the most exciting edition. The starry draws - John Malkovich in The Infernal Comedy and the North American debut of Rufus Wainwright's first opera - had their moments but weren't exceptional. Here's our annual wrap-up.[rssbreak]
HOMAGE (2b theatre)
Suggested by the life and work of public sculptor Haydn Davies, Anthony Black's Homage explored questions about the importance of art, who owns a work once it's created and various related issues, with arguments both suggestive and overtly theatrical. Jerry Franken and Barbara Gordon were the emotionally winning central figures under Christian Barry's direction, which had the audience sitting within a public sculpture designed by Peter Blackie.
THE AFRICA TRILOGY (Volcano/Harbourfront Centre)
Even though one of the plays, Christina Anderson's GLO, was hampered by fussy direction, this internationally created series about Africa and the West included some intriguing writing (Binyavanga Wainaina's Shine Your Eye and Roland Schimmelpfennig's Peggy Pickit Sees The Face Of God) and productions with equally exciting acting and design.
THE WAVES FESTIVAL (Young Centre)
The Young Centre's three-day mini-fest offered dozens of brief productions throughout the building - lobbies, washrooms, theatres, dressing rooms - and a sampling of the amazing musical, dance and theatrical talents who make up the centre's resident artists' program.
ONE PURE LONGING: TÁHIRIH'S SEARCH
The cast was committed, and the collectively created show, directed by Erika Batdorf, had some visually striking moments. Overall, though, this multidisciplinary piece inspired by the life of a gifted female poet and theologian martyred in 1800s Iran unfolded like a theatre school exercise.
After previous Luminato showings by world-class troupes Mark Morris Dance Company and the Nederlands Dans Theater, this appearance by Syria's Enana Dance Theatre came as a major disappointment, with an incomprehensible story, cheesy lip-synching and more attention to multiple costume changes than any compelling choreography.
Doesn't bode well for next year's program, since the troupe's involved in the premiere of 1001 Nights.
TWO FACED BASTARD
This high-concept show - audiences see different shows on either side of a curtain of vertical slats - failed intellectually and dramatically. The Aussie import was billed as dance theatre, but very little dance was on display, and the text was elusive and self-indulgent. It might have worked better had creators Gideon Obarzanek and Lucy Guerin given us both sides of the theatrical coin, so we saw what we were missing the first time. As it was, we just didn't care.