Review: Body 13

by Lynn on January 21, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Theatre Passe Muraille. Created by the ensemble of MT Space. Directed by Majdi Bou-Matar. Set and lighting by Jennifer Jimenez. Costumes by Denis Huneault-Joffre. Original music by Nick Storring with Colin Fisher and Germaine Liu. Starring: Badih AbouChakra, Jessalyn Broadfoot, Brad Cook, Trevor Copp, Nada Humsi, Tawiah Ben M’carthy, Pam Patel.

Produced by MT Space in association with Theatre Passe Muraille. Body 13 plays at Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace until January 26.

Director Majdi Bou-Matar paints vivid images with light, shadow, movement, physicality, colour, characters and a red umbrella. A cluster of people stand in shadow, one holds an umbrella. They are on a beach. They sway slightly in unison. The lights come up to reveal men and women in bright colours. One man wears turquoise shorts and a matching jacket. A woman wears a dress of shades of reds and sand. The look of the group draws us in. It’s a funeral for the father of the young woman in front, holding a box. Her father’s ashes are in the box and she hasn’t got the courage to throw his ashes in the sea. A man who uses the furled umbrella as a cane urges her to do it and not waste more time. She had a rift with her father. He did not approve of her boyfriend. She is feeling conflicted.

The man in the shorts runs across the stage incessantly looking for something. Another man, perhaps developmentally challenged, is attracted to the man in shorts. They are awkward with each other. The man with the umbrella laughs a lot, ogles woman but secretly is attracted to men. A man fully dressed in shirt, tie and vest looks for his cufflink in the sand and comes on to women with the same line. He is not what he seems. An older woman meets her young caseworker at the beach. The older woman is seeking refugee status in the country. The caseworker can’t talk about the case. The two women are attracted to each other but try to hide it. They put suntan oil on their skin in the same slow motion, the same fluid stokes.

Relationships are revealed slowly, delicately, subtly in spare dialogue and arresting images. Body 13 is about sex, sensuality, attraction, confliction, secrecy, intimacy, revelation and finally release. Every character, except the man in the suit, buttoned up, tight tie, sheds his/her inhibitions, secrets and clothes (in a ritualistic scene of release), and accepts joy in that new revelation. The man in the suit is the only one who still lies to himself, and watches the others with envy, sitting on the sand.

This is the second production of MT Space directed by Majdi Bou-Matar that I have seen at Theatre Passe Muraille. The first one was The Last 15 Seconds. It was astonishing. It was about the death of a film director by a suicide bomber and the implications of that death. Body 13 is no less astonishing and just as compelling. Bou-Matar and his gifted ensemble tell stories that cross nationalities, cultures (MT stands for Multicutural Theatre), traditions and societal constraints, and they tell them in spare language and complex imagery. Again the result is astonishing. I don’t know what the title means and would love to. It didn’t spoil my admiration for this terrific production by this wonderful company.

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