NOHAYQUIENSEPA (no one knows)

by Lynn on March 23, 2011

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Theatre Centre. Direction, scenography, dramaturgy by Trevor Schwellnus. Choreography by Olga Barrios. Costume design by Andjelija Djuric. Sound by Thomas Ryder Payne. Live drawing by Lorena Torres Loaiza.
Co-creators/performers: Carlos Gonzalez-Vio, Lilia Leon, Victoria Mata, Beatriz Pizano, Christopher Stanton, Mayahuel Tecozautia. Produced by Aluna Theatre

When Nohayquiensepa (No one knows) played at Summerworks I was mighty impressed with the scope, complexity and ambition of the multi-media production. The combination of video, animation, digital distortion, dance, and light all worked to tell a dark story. Most Summerworks productions have a rough and ready look to them and one cuts them some slack because it’s theatre on a shoestring, even when the production was as visually impressive as Nohayquiensepa was.

Now Aluna Theatre has reprised the show for a longer, more substantial run at the Theatre Centre. The visuals of the production are still impressive thanks to Aluna Theatre’s imaginative Artistic Director, Trevor Schwellnus, who also directs here, does the scenography and did the dramaturgy.

As we file into the theatre we see on a large screen, the shadow of a left hand busy drawing boxes and crosses –some black some red–in those boxes. The screen is used to project newspaper accounts in which a sentence is highlighted quickly stating a person has disappeared and no one knows where he is (hence the translation of nohayquiensepa). There are references to mining companies in Colombia and some disaster that happened. A character representing the company tries to apologize and explain. A woman laments finding a dead man on the beach and wonders who he is and what he was like. There are segments of dance performed over and together with the dialogue, some of it in Spanish, some English, occasionally distorted.

From the press release: Nohayquiensepa (No one knows) “is a multimedia dance-theatre piece that explores how we react to the death of strangers both here and abroad….Inspired by events in a Colombian river town on the edge of great violence and by reports on the activities of Canadian mining conglomerates, artists from Canada, Columbia, Mexico, Serbia Uruguay, and Venezuela investigate the connections between our lives here in Canada and those who live in places where human rights violations are common.”

I quote the press release because it is the clearest, most concise thing that actually explains the story. There is so much activity going on in the production that it distracts from telling the story in a clear way. And truth to tell if you don’t understand Spanish (and I don’t) I get a sense that I’m missing some vital information. That feels a cheat to me. The seriousness of what Schwellnus and his cast of actors and dancers want to convey is gleaned in those snippets of newspaper reports; the hint of an accident; the glimmer of some information heard in the jumble of sound, speech—in two languages. But I was desperate for the production to tell me clearly what it wanted to say to me, without me having to read about it first and afterwards, in a press release.

Nohayquinesepa (No one knows) plays at the theatre centre until March 27, 2011

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