Photo Credit: Vero Boncompagni
THE INVISIBLE written, directed and performed by Marie Brassard (Brassard/Infrarouge/World Stage). Enwave Theatre (231 Queens Quay West). To December 6. $15-$30. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNN
Quebec theatre artist Marie Brassard uses technology like almost no one else, playing with sound, light and visual imagery to give added meaning to her words and thoughts.
A frequent collaborator with Robert Lepage, Brassard wowed audiences with her first solo show, Jimmy, creature de Rêve, a piece that's played a few times here in Toronto.
Her latest work, The Invisible, gets its English-language premiere as part of Harbourfront Centre's World Stage and Québec Now! series. But while the piece is intriguing at times, the whole doesn't come together in as suggestive a way that Jimmy did, touching the emotions as well as the intellect.
The Invisible explores the voices within us, the hidden aspects of our lives that emerge most recognizably in a dreamlike way, be that in actual sleep or - as Brassard hints - in the work of the artist, responding to an inner urge that won't stay quiet.
In her presentation on the tangibly solid and the intangibly spiritual she also touches on such things as ghosts and 19th-century mediums, who saw ectoplasm as a link between the everyday world and the "other side," or as Brassard calls it, the void.
In fact, one of the striking images in the show is the first, where we can barely make out something silvery floating on the stage. Do we see it? Is it real? Shifting perspective, moving in and out of our conscious vision, whatever it is we see becomes a haunting visual.
Blending the faux, androgynous figure of J.T. Leroy, dream- and drug-inspired characters, singer Serge Gainsbourg and stories within stories, Brassard suggests that our world is far more than what we can rationally see.
Relying on a device that proved so successful in Jimmy, she has her voice altered electronically so that at times we hear the "real" Brassard, at others a masculine voice or a young child. The technology beautifully furthers the theme of another world that impinges on us, for though we hear a male voice, there's also a ghostly echo of Brassard's own speaking voice behind the words.
What's impressive about the show is its sophisticated technology, especially the fine work by sound designer/live music performers Alexander MacSween and Mikko Hynninen. Sounds morph from one thing to another - a train whistle becomes a vocal wail - from one world to another, and at one point near the end understandable words dissolve into atoms of sound, audible clicks in the air.
Hynninen is also responsible for the varied lighting, and set designer Simon Guilbault, who makes use of reflective Mylar, adds a number of visual surprises to the mix. Too bad that the Enwave Theatre doesn't allow for moments of total blackness, which the show requires; there's always a spill of light from red exit signs or other sources, reflected off various parts of the set, that shows us the performer at work and breaks the hypnotic hold that Brassard can have on us.
The idea that an artist's creations lie within, often insisting on coming to light, is a powerful one, but its presentation is too subtly presented. The whole piece, in fact, doesn't have a real build; poetic in feel, it's intentionally circular in overall structure, sometimes offering us circles within circles.
But while this bit or that moment tantalizes us, The Invisible is the kind of show I left admiring the artistry but not feeling moved by what I'd seen and heard.