by Lynn on May 5, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer


At Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Co-created by Susanna Fournier, Ted Witzel and Helen Yung

Text by Susanna Fournier and Ted Witzel

Scenography by Helen Yung

Audiovisuals by Wesley McKenzie

Lighting by Oz Weaver

Performed and interpreted by: Valerie Buhagiar

Sky Gilbert

Chala Hunter

Richard Lam

Christopher Morris

Craig Pike

Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah

Rose Tuong

A deconstruction of Frank Wedekind’s 1894 play Lulu examining sex, lust, love, death reflection and grief in a production full of mind-boggling self-indulgence.

 The Story. This is based on Frank Wedekind’s mammoth work: Pandora’s Box: A monster-tragedy (aka LULU).  Lulu was an amoral woman who slept her way across Europe leaving a string of dead lovers in her wake. This is the first half of the story.

The second half then takes a more personal approach, to ‘untangle Lulu” from a history of violence, and try and find the ‘erotic love within us’ plus sex, death, love and grief, so says the programme note.

The Production.  On either side of the stage are microphones, a table with some props, and in the middle of the space on a raised platform is a bed.  For a long portion of the show a lot of action happens on both sides of the playing space, making it difficult to see or figure out what is going on if one was on the opposite side of the stage. As none of the characters is identified in the program alongside the actors playing them, I’ll refer to the characters as best as possible. A woman, stage right, sings into a microphone. An image of her singing at the microphone is projected on the back wall of the set.

Lulu (Rose Tuong) is dressed as a comedia dell arte character in a white satin jump suit along with various and many coloured wigs, each one more garish than the next. She is pouty, impatient, off-handed and seems incapable of any kind of meaningful love.  The acting is flat which seems a director’s choice. Christopher Morris is a dandy and suave as one of Lulu’s older lovers. Later he will appear nude except for a gauzy ruff around his neck. The reason is mystifying. Other characters wander on and off, telling the story, rather than showing it for the most part.

The acting style for the first section is deliberately declarative, artificial in that emotions don’t seem to be paramount and at a remove. In the second section when the cast engage with one another, expressing feelings, emotion etc. That too does not ring true.

Comment.  A group of actors have examined, dissected, questioned and pondered German playwright Frank Wedekind’s 1894 play: Lulu over the last four years. They have deconstructed six previous versions and this is the seventh.

The story and play are full of all manner of sexual perversion because Lulu was a sexual predator who enticed men wherever she went.  If you didn’t know the story to begin with I think you might be hard pressed to figure out what is going on.  There is no real sense of passion, eroticism or variation to get us into the story. I had to wonder why they were deconstructing anything if we can’t get the sense of what it was they were deconstructing.

The second part: Love and Grief seems to be the more personal component as the cast try and “untangle Lulu”  It’s the actors shifting in and out of the story, with  many trying to relate their attitudes to the original. Often the cast is in the nude perhaps to achieve a sense of eroticism.

Does this retelling and deconstruction work? Let me quote from the programme because it’s helpful to read what the creators really intended:

“We invite you to journey with us and peel back the layers of legacy, so we can meet each other in the pulsing heart of longing, of being and of being together.”

In other words, drivel.

There is another show in Toronto that tries to examine love in its many guises between lovers. It’s called 40 Days and 40 Nights.  In my review I called it ‘twaddle’.

Now I have drivel with  Lulu v. 7//A Femme Fatale.

  Is this an improvement? I don’t think so.

Lulu V. 7//Aspects of a Femme Fatale is pretentious navel gazing with the assumption that the audience will care about such self-indulgence. We are even ‘treated’ to actors commenting how “Ted (Witzel)” or “Suzanna (Fournier)” wanted one or the other to rewrite their portion, that there was not enough Wedekind in that section. If we haven’t seen the process for the previous six versions, why should we care what “Ted” or “Suzanna” felt?  And as a member of that audience I just don’t care because they haven’t met me half way to make me care. .

Because Lulu V. 7//Aspects of a Femme Fatale is so lacking in drama, tension, anything that would hold you regarding narrative, it’s dull, dreary and so full of self-indulgence and self-satisfaction and certainly no varying aspects of a femme fatale.

The saving grace is that it was supposed to be over three hours long and it was only about 2 hours and 45 minutes long.

I so hope there is not a version 8.

A Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and Red Light District Co-production:

Opened: May 3, 2018.

Closes: May 20, 2018.

Running Time:  2 hours, 45 minutes.

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