The Unhappy PrincessTuesday, May 04, 2010
Noam Gagnon’s 10 THINGS you’ll HATE about ME this evening at the Cultch, hit me hard but I was unable to cry as did the Cultch director, Heather Redfern after the performance. Perhaps I had to control myself as I was sitting next to the impervious (outside, who knows inside) Max Wyman.
As personal as this work was (even though there were, just in case, indications on the projected screen that some of the stuff we were watching could possibly not all be true) in the end when the 50 minute performance was almost over a name was given to the character performing on the stage. There was no escaping to the fact that the story was the sad story of Noam Gagnon himself.
It began with a burst of serendipity and with music (composed and or selected by Stefan Smulovitz) that took me to my late 70s job with the gay publication Bi-line. I had to frequent places (now gone) like Faces, the Shaggy Horse and the Luv-A-Fair. Watching Noam Gagnon dressed (but topless) in a long and fluffy skirt ( costume design by Marina Szijarto) I was propelled to those high energy disco clubs. Gagnon looked more like the Happy Princess not like the Happy Prince the work was supposed to conjure. But that happened later and most effectively. The story, by Oscar Wilde, is one of my favourite stories. Since I knew this, I knew that no matter how much sadder Gagnon's work became there would have to be some sort of salvation in the end. And there was. And I want to reveal here something that many may not know about the Happy Prince. It was a 7-year-old boy, Jorge Luis Borges himself who first tranlasted the story into Spanish.
The initial happiness deteriorated and brutally hit my jugular every time Gagnon mimicked taking his pulse to see if he was alive. I will not reveal here the awful travails of the boy and young man, that eventually in partnership with Dana Gingras, brought us the internationally renowned dance company, the Holy Body Tattoo.
If this piece of choreographic pathos works it is because of the voices. There I was listening to Christopher Gaze’s voice while spying him with his Jennifer up in the balcony. The voice could have almost singlehandedly carried the show - maybe not. But I will never know because Gaze’s voice competed (and he for once got a run for his golden-voiced-money) with Noam Gagnon’s own. The work shifted back and forth between Gaze’s description of “the boy’s” misfortunes with Gagnon’s own, and just right, Frenchified English.
Those of us who were there last night may have suffered but we were also witness to a personal story, made that much more personal and intimate, by the human voice. It is ample proof that dance is sometimes not enough to portray emotion, particularly when the dancer is willing to bare all with his clothes on.
There are performances until Saturday May 8.