Starring Badih AbouChakra, Jessalyn Broadfoot. Directed by Majdi Bou-Matar. Created by MT Space. Theatre Passe Muraille, to Jan. 26.
Inspired by our country’s much-touted cultural mosaic, the Waterloo-based theatre collective MT Space claims to “reflect on stage the 21st-century face of Canadians.” In Body 13, those faces include an Indian woman scattering her father’s ashes, a closeted Newfoundland man, an elderly Syrian refugee and her younger immigration officer, a Lebanese ex-soldier, a gay immigrant from Ghana, and a white yuppie snob attending his best friend’s wedding, all (mostly) strangers who wind up spending a summer day on a beach. But while it’s admirable to represent a variety of Canadians, the challenge is to find a compelling story to link these diverse characters.
Known for its use of movement to express complex emotions, MT Space turns several sexual summertime clichés, like applying suntan lotion and jogging in the sand, into intricate sequences of physical theatre, set to an original score by Toronto-based improv-oriented musicians Nick Storring, Colin Fisher, and Germaine Liu. The cast even manages to pull off a hockey game that evolves into a somewhat hypnotic onstage orgy. In fact, the play’s exploration of sexual and cultural identity comes across much clearer through body language than it does through the script.
While MT Space’s members have clearly devoted much of their attention to perfecting their blend of music and movement, the content seems to have been pushed to the side. As a result, some storylines are unclear and some characters left underdeveloped, while others are painfully obvious (the villain, dressed in a white suit, spends the play looking for a lost antique cufflink and barely raises his head from the sand). The collective’s mandate to diversify Ontario theatre’s performers and themes is unquestionably important, but in this case, the big picture dwarfs the personal stories they’re trying to represent.