September 2006

Ever Thus | A dance journey into Shakespeare
A world premiere
presented by MOonhORsE Dance Theatre
September 28 – October 13, 2006Young Centre for The Performing ArtsToronto
Body Poetry and Spoken Text
by David Fujino
Claudia Moore's new piece, Ever Thus, is a compelling and mostly satisfying dance tribute to the world and characters of William Shakespeare.

Jennifer Dick's sweet Ophelia danced out her troubled relationship with her brooding prince Hamlet, played by the lithe and strong Miko Sobreira.

Claudia Moore herself, as Lady MacBeth, obsessively kept trying to wash away the stain of murder and blood from her tensed hands.

As Queen Catherine, Heidi Strauss moved with a dignified royal carriage, and actor William Webster — no surprise — convincingly looked and acted the part of King Lear, a role he's currently playing in the Soulpepper production of King Lear.

Ever Thus began with these five people in the aisle carrying small suitcases and clambering onto the thrust stage.

The last member of this troupe, William Webster, then stopped, turned, and remarked to the audience, "Was it ever thus?"

So began Moore's dance conceit — a group of seasoned 'on the road' actors, moving from gig to gig, sighing as they prepared for yet another performance of Shakespearean repertoire in yet another town.

Some began to fuss and primp and move about, others to stretch, until they finally came together in a circle and conducted what turned out to be an oddly subdued and rather perfunctory group vocal warm-up.

Because this stage warm-up felt so low-energy and phony, some of us noticed the artifice instead of the art, and the illusion was broken.

But more significantly, Moore's ambition to have her dancers speak Shakespeare's text, only served in the end to expose her dancers to negative close-range scrutiny.

William Webster & Jennifer Dick
Sad to say, the dancers' voices often could not be heard, and many of their lines — delivered rather well, too — frequently kept fading into brow-furrowing inaudibility.

This was a pity, for Moore's dance has great intelligence and captivating intensity; and it was therefore doubly frustrating to hear — or not hear? — Shakespeare's words because the dancers failed 'to project'.

Again, it seems, Hamlet's well-known advice on acting clearly went unheeded: "Suit the action to the word, the word to the action ..." (and make sure the audience can hear you.)

But Claudia Moore's choreography is, finally, about the journey of characters into a visceral place, a place deeply saturated with drama and human emotion.

In Ever Thus, her startling physical imagination has successfully conjured up the incredible characters, even the words, and the far-reaching humanism of William Shakespeare.

From the many images appearing and disappearing in Moore's articulate time-based art, there are two images that linger.

There is William Webster as Lear, manipulating a hand puppet dressed in a red dinner jacket: the actor pulling the strings on a surrogate dummy/actor whose voice is fully supported and resonant.

And there is Ophelia (Jennifer Dick), kneeling before a profusion of coloured flower blossoms scattered from her suitcase onto the floor.

The Performers
Lady MacBeth (Claudia Moore)
Hamlet (Miko Sobreira)
Ophelia (Jennifer Dick)
Queen Katherine (Heidi Strauss)
King Lear (William Webster)
We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
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The Live Music Report
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