by Lynn on November 18, 2011

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Factory Studio Theatre. Written by Michael Spence. Directed by Jacquie P.A. Thomas. Set by Michael Spence. Costumes by Sheree Tams. Lighting by Laird Macdonald. Starring: Stephanie Belding, Cosette Derome, Conor Green, Ron Kennell, Kat Sandler, and Michael Spence. At the Factory Studio Theatre until November 20, 2011

Produced by Theatre Gargantua in association with Factory Theatre.

Theatre Gargantua is a fascinating company that uses a highly physical performance style to explore thought provoking subjects. They performed one production in which the cast was suspended on ropes. Another explored the murky world of computers, technology and identity in which the whole set seemed to be the inside of a computer.

In their latest production, IMPRINTS, the company delves into the world of ancestry, genetic memory and ghostly inheritance (Imprints) from the point of view of Lily. Lily is sick with a mysterious disease that seems to have been passed down through her family for many generations. She is undertaking an experimental procedure that will leave her body in limbo until a cure can be found. But rather than dreamily existing in that limbo world, she is thrown into a fantastical Alice in Wonderland World. There she is bedeviled by swooping black bird-like spirits; the ghost of her father; and the raging apparition of a man who has been seeking revenge on Lily’s family for what seems centuries. Some distant ancestor of Lily’s family was responsible for the death of this vengeful man’s children and he has been troubling Lily’s various ancestors ever since.

The idea of inheriting through our genes, not only our physical traits from previous generations, but also responsibility for previous generations’ wrong-doing, for example, is a fascinating notion. And it’s typical of the depth of thought that suffuses the work of Theatre Gargantua and its resident playwright, Michael Spence.

Also typical is the arresting physicality of its productions. Director Jacquie P.A. Thomas has such a clear eye for the startling image. As Lily stands in this murky limbo world, wondering where she is, she is swooped upon by apparitions in black, arms/wings streaming black strips around her.

In another scene the raging spirit from her ancestor’s days comes in close, growling his anger, frightening her, and us. A great swath of material is billowed up and over her and she tramples on it. The image is arresting.

Later a cascade of sand falls in a shower down from the flies, forming a large mound of sand on the stage. Light shimmers on the stage in front of the sand giving the effect of small waves lapping onto a sandy beach. Breathtaking

As Lily, Stephanie Belding is that wonderful mix of bewildered by what is happening to her, and quietly strong in meeting these demons. As the vengeful spirit, Ron Kennell is compelling, fierce and even moving. The ensemble work is impeccable. The company works on each show methodically and meticulously over a two year period. The result is always a production that is intriguing, thought provoking, poetic and embracing.

IMPRINTS plays at the Factory Studio Theatre, 126 Bathurst St. until November 26.
Factory Studio Box Office: 416-504-9971

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