Sign Language, created and performed by Denise Clarke

March 10, 2011 at 10:22 pm | In arts | 1 Comment

Last night I wrote about the play I saw at the Belfry Theatre‘s Spark Festival and thought I was done with local theater review. But tonight I saw Denise Clarke‘s Sign Language (also part of the Spark Festival), and it really blew me away. Go see it if you can.

Clarke’s one-woman show is subtitled, “A Physical Conversation”; there is dialogue (monologue, actually) at the beginning, but it serves mostly to embed physical clues and signs deep into the viewer’s perception, so that by the middle of the play, when the words are gone, the body (hers and ours) re-minds and is reminded again and again of what she said earlier, how she said it (using sign language), and how she danced its meanings.

We’re taken from listening to a woman who may or may not be slightly off her rocker (she may or may not be drinking a bit too much, shopping a bit too much, fixating on her multi-thousand-dollar car a bit too much, medicating with psychopharmaceuticals a bit too much, loving her $400 Ralph Lauren knit dress, snagged at Winners for $50, a bit too much, and so on) to watching, riveted, a woman embody the various stages of ecstasy (angels and devils).

We never know just what Clarke is going to do next – whether it’s nudity or near-slapstick pratfall-type comedy or dead-serious dancing. She embodies all the contradictions: slightly imperfect, but stronger and more powerfully beautiful and in control of her body than probably anyone else in the theater. To say that her performance is athletic is an understatement. I once had the memorable pleasure of seeing Kazuo Ohno perform in Berlin, and it seemed to me that Denise Clarke channeled the same kind of immense expressive power Ohno brought to the stage.

Denise Clarke in "A Fabulous Disaster" (photo unavailable for "Sign Language"

Clarke is a member of Calgary’s One Yellow Rabbit Performance Theatre (see also this page). Sign Language was created in 2003 and uses the following music: Miserere (1989) and Sarah Was Ninety Years Old (1976/90) by Arvo Pärt. The “platform monologue” at the beginning was inspired by Radiohead’s Fitter Happier.

Oh, PS: ten minutes before Clarke’s 68-minute play was finished, the power went out. The high school next to the Belfry Theatre is building out and had covered a huge load of construction lumber with a temporary roof. Unfortunately, we’re having quite a few weather events this winter – a big storm blew in this evening. The wind picked up the temporary roof and flung it onto the overhead power lines. Poof, off went the stage lights, on came the emergency lights, and five minutes later the building was evacuated. Here’s hoping the weather – and roofs – behave for the remaining performances.

 

1 Comment

  1. “Poof, off went the stage lights, on came the emergency lights, and five minutes later the building was evacuated.”

    Before the ending? So they didn’t get to finish the performance? Aws, that’s too bad.

    Comment by Meili's Runescape Blog — March 11, 2011 #

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