Two more must-see
Wildside Festival shows
Reviews of MoonCow Theatre Co’s Night Cows and The Bakery’s SKIN
By Jacqueline van de Geer
Les vaches de nuit was written in the winter of 1979 by Jovette Marchessault, a Québécoise queer indigenous self-taught artist, creator and writer. Her work has a deep and lyrical ancestral voice that celebrates words through myths and poetic language. Night Cows was part of her project to create new mythologies for women in the 1970s and 80s. And what a mythical adventure Night Cows is!
Blurring the lines between human and animal, mother and daughter, sky and earth, Night Cows invites us into the fantastical story of a magical transformation of a mother cow.
At the beginning of Night Cows, a young female cow, or a ‘vachette’, informs us how all the female cows have to be ‘castrated’. This way they will not become nymphomaniacs and thus they will serve only for their flesh, their meat and their obedience. Her mother is such a cow who has been castrated for moralistic reasons. She has been castrated for financial reasons as well. But at night, all things change and transform.
Eléonore Lamothe, as the young female cow, takes us with her on the voyage. She travels with her mother through the night sky where this castrated day cow transforms herself into a sensual fantastical night cow. The vachette travels on the back of her mother, who multiplies herself.
I was very touched after seeing this short 24-minute piece, realizing that Night Cows is asking us to reconsider the hierarchy-based belief system that we rely so much upon.
Eléonore’s expressive voice guides us through the lyrical magic of this text, spoken in both English and French. A beautiful and sometimes haunting soundtrack accompanies her narration: “She opens herself in two, she splits herself in four, expanding into the milky way; her daughter riding her back as they go to wake the crows.“ The crows recount the same story every night, sharing our female history with the night cows.
All this takes place in the fantastical realm of a night world that is beautifully designed by Anna Jane McIntyre, Sophie Marisol and Alexandra Montagnese, who manipulates the magical puppets.
I was very touched after seeing this short 24-minute piece, realizing that Night Cows is asking us to reconsider the hierarchy-based belief system that we rely so much upon. The wisdom of these animals is inviting us to expand our minds and to come to the realization that we are all one and equally important to each other.
If you have some time to spare this coming week, go to the Wildside Festival page of Centaur Theatre and treat yourself to this marvellous production of MoonCow Theatre Co. You won’t regret it.
Produced by MoonCow Theatre Co.
Original text: Jovette Marchessault
English translation: Yvonne M. Klein
Video and sound editor: Hannah Kirby
Audio performer, script adaptation: Eléonore Lamothe
Composer, dramaturge: Rosie Long Decter
Puppet design: Anna Jane McIntyre and Sophie Marisol
Puppeteer, puppet design and construction: Alexandra Montagnese
Director, producer, script adaptation, puppet design and construction: Katey Wattam
Puppetry consultant: Myrna Wyatt-Selkirk
Watch at centaurtheatre.com/shows/night-cows/
SKIN is described on Centaur’s Wildside website as “a dreamlike reflection on the value and duration of human existence, inspired by a photograph of a partially illuminated door and On the Shortness of Life (49 AD).” In his moral essay On the Shortness of Life, the Stoic philosopher and playwright Seneca offers us an urgent reminder of the non-renewability of our most important resource, our time.
One of the most famous quotes of this essay is: “It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing.“
‘I thoroughly enjoyed this performance and I was completely mesmerized by the way visuals, movement, the multi-layered text, the haunting sound and the use of new technology merged into a wonderful sensorial experience.’
SKIN starts with a haunting introduction, inviting us to use headphones, turn out the lights and witness this performance in the darkness to dive deep into the experience. We see the face of a woman, mirrored on two sides, looking at us, speaking to us, taking us from our homes into space, and time…
Soft-spoken, with a velvet voice, Leslie Baker peels of all layers of existence, our houses, our doors, our windows, the big outside, the even bigger space and her text makes us wonder about time, the voice guides us through galaxies, through the stardust until there is nothing… syncing deeper… safe… As if in a dream, her face disappears and a crawling figure tries to move onwards, a pulsing soundtrack accompanies the struggle to move forward, soft whispering abruptly cut off by an alarming sound.
The image emerges in three separated houses, hot pink, with three figures in the houses, isolated, shut-ins, moving in sync even though they are apart from each other, alone. Text, images, sound and colours then transition into one figure, solitaire, in fighter’s pose, repeating the same movements over and over again, exhausting herself, shouting a short loud cry of war, finally collapsing and giving up.
I thoroughly enjoyed this performance and I was completely mesmerized by the way visuals, movement, the multi-layered text, the haunting sound and the use of new technology merged into a wonderful sensorial experience.
Bravo to the Bakery – this is indeed a wild ride, exposing on a deep haunting level the times we are living in, right here, right now.
One question of the marvellous hypnotizing text stayed with me: Are humans extinct?
If you missed the premiere of SKIN, no worries: from January 18 through 21, a different episode of SKIN will be presented live each night at 8 pm. They will be repeated in the same order from January 25 through 28 and a final compilation of all four episodes will be online on January 29, 30 and 31.
Produced by The Bakery
Director, creator, collaborator performer: Leslie Baker
Co-creator, collaborator performer: Emma Tibaldo
Co-creator: Joseph Shragge
Collaborator performers: Burcu Emeç, Carina Rose and Dean Makarenko
Strata text performed by Jennie Herbin
Watch at centaurtheatre.com/shows/skin/
Feature image: frame from Night Cows
Read also: other articles about the Wildside Festival
Originally from the Netherlands, Jacqueline van de Geer crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 2005 to live and work in Montréal. She has a bachelor’s degree in visual arts and performance arts.