because the personal is cultural
Belle manière: A Review
There’s a knife on my desk, next to my computer. When I’m done writing this review, I’ll take the knife and stab myself repeatedly. Don’t worry. It’s a retractable blade, a plastic knife.
Ashlea Watkin (sublime, as always) is quite poised when she walks onstage for Nicolas Cantin’s Belle manière. She is wearing a nice black dress. But something’s off. She steps into black shoes, men’s shoes, but doesn’t even bother putting them on correctly. She simply lets her heel come down on the back of the shoe. She picks up two plastic objects: little, round, white. She shakes her head from side to side, brings her hands to her face: squeak! It’s tragic, it’s comic, it’s a farce.
She hugs the air, but having no one there to stop her arms, the embrace sends her stumbling across the floor.
There is someone else there – Normand Marcy – but he simply stands there and looks on, comatose. Watkin attempts to make him sing, but to no avail. No sound out of him, ever. He refuses to play her games. So Watkin extends her fist in front of an audience member, asking them to sing instead. The awkwardness is transferred from the couple’s relationship onto the audience.
Watkin’s upper body collapses, her head crashing down to her stomach. Marcy remains still. Once again, we find the same characters as in Cantin’s previous piece, Grand singe, even though they are played by different performers. The man is passive, the woman relatively more hysterical. A relationship looked at under unflattering neon lights.
Cantin does introduce a new element into this work: a few magic tricks of which the performers barely attempt to mask the inner workings. They look cheap, a bit like how one sometimes feels when looking back at love. Why did it look so magical back then? Or like this red balloon tied to Marcy’s body that follows him along, trailing on the ground: whimsical at first, then fragile, and ultimately just ridiculous.
These are sad clowns. Marcy might look like a victim, but he is only a willing one, more a victim of his own passivity than of Watkin. The egg, the cream pie, the shaken soda bottle, he sees it all coming, but he has no will of his own. We feel better about not being in such a relationship. We feel better that we’re not the only ones who’ve been in such a relationship.
Cantin is still working out his issues with women, but he undeniably does it in a theatrically compelling way. No other artist manages to get so much out of so little. You’ll be just as shaken up as that soda bottle by the time you get out of there.
And maybe love is like that soda bottle; you think you’re going to get something sweet, but it’s really just an explosion waiting to happen, leaving you with nothing but a sticky mess.
March 3-5 at 7:30pm, March 6 at 4pm
Tickets: 18$ / Students: 14$
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has an MA in Film Studies and works in contemporary dance. His fiction has appeared in Headlight Anthology, Cactus Heart, and Birkensnake.
s.verstricht [at] gmail [dot] com