Thursday, May 3, 2018

40 Days and 40 Nights


Even after all this time  The Sun never says to the earth, "You owe me." Look what happens  With a love like that,  It lights the whole sky.
Hafez, (poet - Shiraz, Iran - 1315-1390)

Why does the sun go on shining
why does the sea rush to shore
don't they know it's the end of the world
Cause you don't love me anymore
country pop, recorded by Skeeter Davis (1963) 
written by Sylvia Dee & Arthur Kent

My theatre companion seemed to be running late. I made the mistake of reading a review on my cell phone while I waited. A few minutes before curtain I wandered out of the theatre, eager to leave, perhaps just invite my friend for tea or a cocktail. After reading the review a triple martini seemed to be in order. I rarely trust a review but martinis are never wrong...

It was a warm spring evening. Love might have been in the air. I hadn't noticed. But I have heard that springtime is a suitable season for that sort of thing. I was secretly hoping my friend would be too late and that we would not be let into the theatre. That annoying theatre habit nowadays of not letting people enter during the show. I don't recall this sort of thing happening as much when I was a young theatregoer. Perhaps I've forgotten. But I do seem to remember something from theatre history about ancient Greek audiences being a welcome part of the spectacle as they responded accordingly during an event. But my theatre history knowledge is vague at best - articulate at its worst.

The review I read was not at all positive, except for a brief passage about the eloquence and skill of the two performers as they enacted a scene beside and inside of a makeshift bathing device - a tin tub of sorts. The reviewer was spot on. What they missed - the reviewer - was the idea that this is not really a show that invites critique. It is a meditation, a happening of sorts, and it may not be to everyones taste. Surprisingly enough, I loved it. Due in part to my companion's enthusiasm in the first few minutes when the 'play' took on an unassuming ritualistic effect and the import of the evening began to sink it.

I was ready to hate it after reading the review. But I failed. And failure, in this age of queer failure theory, can be a means of celebration.* And this is precisely what Kim Collier and Daniel Brooks appeared to be doing in 40 Days and 40 Nights - celebrating, enacting, inviting, inquiring, and interacting with the idea of love as it invades our hearts and souls from time to time over the course of a single lifetime.


To raise the spectre of queer failure theory again, I'm an old queer, and happily embrace my devout love of a form of constructive bitterness, when it comes to love - and theatre. The questions that Kim Collier and Daniel Brooks posed, for the audience to consider, and respond to with tiny lights or single chalk drawn words on the dark floor, were answered in a variety of ways - from ambivalent to enthusiastic to maudlin and resigned. I invariably chose the latter. 

None of the questions seemed leading in any manipulative way. In fact, I for one felt comfortable in the quiet solicitude of a brand of interactive theatre that never felt intrusive or annoying - to me. My maudlin resigned feelings on love were my own, never critiqued, just left alone to be reinstated in my heart and mind. It was a reverse catharsis. I did not rid myself of it. I was able to love it - to embrace, to hug the life out of and into it - as this meditation confirmed my lifelong hesitation and contentment with the choices I've made and the ones that have been made for me. 40 Days and 40 Nights aided me, myself, and I in this endeavour for 90 serene minutes of contemplation and enactment.

Brooks and Collier have had careers that range from the epically traditional (Collier; Angels In America, National Arts Centre, director) to the esoteric (Brooks; The Noam Chomsky Lectures, co-author with Guillermo Verdecchia). Their range has consisted of an impressive array of both form and thematic risk. 40 Days and 40 Nights expands this aesthetic latitude and delivers an intimate, at times delightfully indulgent kind of theatre gathering that opens itself up to particular forms of critique. And it's not that this critique is entirely unwarranted. You just have to be on the mood for it - like love...

Inspired in part by the poetry of  Hafez (a Persian writer of the 1300's) and the ideas of French philosopher Alain Badiou, this is ninety minutes of pure self-interrogation in the area of love and living within the framework of cultural assumptions that project romantic discourse upon an unruly emotion. Now there's a mouthful. 

This in fact could be the only critique I have to offer. Although the piece offers intimacy, communal interaction, and solitude all at once, it never really makes an effort to rigorously critique or investigate the potential social constructions that  love and romance entail when they come head to head - when they collide. There is the odd nod to communism (etc) which pricked up my ears due to my first chalk drawn response when the question was posed - what do you think of when you think of love? I drew a dollar sign on the floor. 

But at times it all seems a touch too lovey dovey, without enough cultural critique, with the exception of that beautiful bathtub scene that wins over even the harshest of critics. Just call me a  gender queer cock-drawn (aka known as cockeyed) pessimist, but I need a bit more healthy negativity to get me through the night. And yet, thanks to the optimism of my theatre companion that warm spring evening, I was able to buy into what appeared to be a genuine - if not a just a tad insular - meditation that Collier and Brooks invited spectators to take part in, to embrace, to love - or not... That's the question...


For Immediate Release:
April 27
, 2018 • Please add to your listings/announcements
produced by Necessary Angel Theatre Company,
Electric Company Theatre and
The Theatre Centre
Created and Performed by
Daniel Brooks and Kim Collier
April 25
May 6, 2018 @ The Theatre Centre
Necessary Angel Theatre Company, Electric Company Theatre, and The Theatre Centre are very
pleased to be co
, a new work created and performed by
Daniel Brooks
Kim Collier
with consulting director
Jennifer Tarver
for Necessary Angel.
was initially developed through The Theatre Centre's
Tracy Wright
Global Archive
, and further workshopped by
Necessary Angel Theatre Company
Company Theatre.
Created to honour the inimitable theatre artist Tracy Wright, The Theatre
Tracy Wright Global Archive
challenges artists to explore a burning question and
contemplate a new direction in their work by engaging deeply w
ith communities and locations across
the globe.
is being co
produced in part to mark the 40
anniversary season of the
innovative and experimental theatre company Necessary Angel.
Armed with
the magical poetry of Persian poet Hafe
z, the musings of French philosopher Alain
Badiou, and impossible questions, two lovers on a spiritual quest challenge themselves
to live for 40
days and 40 nights making all choices based in Love. Mysterious, symbolic, and intimate, the couple
is transfor
med through ceremony, tenderness, wisdom, and the sheer force of love itself.
A sensorial, ritualistic, celebration for the performers and the audience,
an investigation of the nature of love;
how to contemplate love, how to talk
about love, and how to be
open to the possibility of love.
A show
each performance of
invites the audience into the
conversation, offering them agency in the story, and embedding them in the feeling of love.
“What do you
think about when you think about Love?”
produced by Necessary Angel Theatre Company,
Electric Company Theatre and
The Theatre Centre
Created and Performed by:
Daniel Brooks
Kim Collier
Consulting Director and Dramaturg:
Jennifer Tarver
Composition and Sound Design:
Andrew Creeggan
Additional Composition and Sound:
Debashis Sinha
Ken Mackenzie
Assistant Set & Costume Designer:
Lindsay Dagger Junkin
Associate Lighting Designer:
Jennifer Lennon
a nationally recognized live arts incubator that s
erves as a research and
development hub for the cultural sector. We are a public space, open and accessible to the people of our
community, where citizens can imagine, debate, celebrate, protest, unite and be responsible for inventing
the future. The Theat
re Centre’s mission is to nurture artists, invest in ideas and champion new work and
new ways of working. The company fosters a culture of innovation by embracing risk and questioning
traditional notions of failure and success.
The Tracy Wright Global Archive
is a project that inspires artists
to explore a burning question and contemplate a new direction in their work by engaging deeply with
communities and locations across the globe, seeking answers to their
questions and inspiring new
directions in their practice.

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