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COUNTING SHEEP Great Hall Black Box Theatre (1087 Queen.
Great Hall Black Box Theatre (1087 Queen West)
August 15 at 2 pm, August 16 at 4 pm. 1-888-328-8384, summerworks.ca.
In Counting Sheep, you don’t watch the action. You’re part of it.
Inspired by Canadian Mark Marczyk’s visit to Kyiv in January, 2014, the show offers a history of the ongoing revolution from the viewpoint of Ukrainian citizens, many of them young people, who wanted a connection to the E.U. that was rejected by their self-serving rulers.
Using video projections, interviews with participants in Kyiv, live music and some intense action, Marczyk and co-creator Marichka Marczyk – whom he met and fell in love with in Maidan (Independence) Square during his visit – create a fast-moving tale that includes a banquet (if you opt for seating on the floor) and animated and initially light-hearted, playful chaos before its tone turns dark, violent and finally tragically touching.
The 15 actors, wearing sheep masks throughout, morph between concerned citizens and stolid police and soldiers, pulling the audience along with and into the storyline. You’ve likely never been this physically involved in an immersive theatre performance: building barricades, dancing in moments of celebration, joining a funeral procession, lugging big tires across the theatre, throwing plastic bricks at the enemy.
Matthew Cherkas’s set, augmented by art and design by Oksana Hawrylak, Kaitlin Hickey’s lighting and Pedro Bonatto’s video design, changes the venue from a place of celebration to one of mourning. The cheerful banquet tables at the start of the show, you’ll discover, mask hidden terrors.
Since the production is presented by the lively and entertaining Lemon Bucket Orkestra, you know the music’s going to be exciting the orchestral sections are complemented by some first-rate a cappella choral music from central and eastern Ukraine. The sound of the latter is inspiring, even for those who don’t understand the words.
What could be clearer, though, are the politics behind the uprising. Some explanation of the players and the events are flashed quickly on the three video screens, but it’s sometimes hard to take in specifics with everything else happening.
Still, the 90-minute show, exhilaratingly theatrical, creates a community feel into which performers and audience members throw themselves with unabashed zest.