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undercurrents festival: Air is inspirational cross-training for the soul

By Diane Lachapelle on February 13, 2015

Air is a physical theatre piece created by Trevor Copp, founder of Burlington`s Tottering Biped Theatre and Richard Beaune. The performance I saw consisted of three short pieces, each introduced by Copp with a few words, which are the only ones you hear throughout the performance: The Stag Hunter, in which Copp portrays both the hunter and the Stag, Ascension (described by Copp as everything you always wanted to know about what happens after you die), and the Incredible Gigantism of Mr. Small, the story of a man who reaches for the stars and gets them.

This was my first experience of undercurrents and I can’t think of a better way to start. Since there is no set, nothing to report in this regard; however as a performance space the Arts Court Studio is a fantastic stage for this intimate and nuanced presentation, and Copp’s movements evoke a space considerably larger than the limits of the stage.

This short performance really cleared all of the junk from my brain; a little inspirational cross-training for the soul for someone who doesn’t spend a lot of time dealing with physical art, which is probably true of most people these days. I think there is a deep seated need for this kind of physical art that people don’t even realize they have anymore. In the age of Netflix and downloads, return to the campfires of our primitive ancestors and feel how theatre first stirred our souls. And as a bonus, feel the incomparable magic of the man in the box bit done by someone who studied at the Marcel Marceau School in Paris and clearly knows what he’s doing.

As a performer, Copp takes to the stage in only jeans and a T-shirt, but through the individual pieces, we see a human male transform from a hunter into the stag being hunted within the space of a few movements, represent a hard-won camp fire started from scratch, and fluidly move from a focus on the weight of the physical world of his character to the interior world of symbol and thought and back again, all without a word.

In the second piece, Copp expresses both the pathos and the humour in the loss of corporeal cohesion we will all someday face with all the grace any of us can hope for and a dash of the buffoonery that is humanity’s inescapable lot.

In the final piece presented in Friday’s performance, it was impossible to fail to recognize one’s own life rendered in the lonely movements of one little man, along with his joy as he experiences greatness for a time.

As this is physical theatre, the movement of the body is the primary engine driving the stories in all three parts of the performance. Copp moves from moment to moment with gestures that range from stylized yet unmistakable representations of everyday actions to representations of movements through unknown planes of existence. The clarity of the performance is outstanding, in that the significance of each action is understood in the same way one understands a succession of words on a page.

By no means should you expect that this is a silent performance. Some well-chosen pieces of music are incorporated into each section of Air, providing additional atmosphere and, in some key moments, are used in combination with choreographed movements and brought to the foreground of the scene.

I encourage you to do yourself a favour and take the opportunity to experience this very unique performance. There are three shows left (tonight, and Saturday afternoon and evening), and Copp hinted that he might add additional pieces to the Saturday evening performance.

Air is presented by undercurrents theatre festival, taking place at Arts Court Studio (2 Daly Ave) until February 21, 2015. This performance is Pay What You Can or buy either an afternoon or an evening pass for $25. Three performances remain: Friday, February 13 at 8:15 pm, Saturday February 14 at 2:15 pm and 8:15 pm. Click here for a detailed schedule.