Death – from chilly to silly

Cold Blood

By Michèle Anne De Mey,  Jaco Van Dormael and the Kiss & Cry Collective

Presented by Canadian Stage

Bluma Appel Theatre, Toronto

February 10 to 14, 2016


“It’s dark . . . you see nothing . . .you think you are in a theatre, but you’re elsewhere . . . 1, 2, 3 . . . You’re sleeping.” So begins a hypnotic stage show on the subject of the Big Unknowable: the afterlife.   “It’s chilly,” says the androgynous narrator of the first death  ̶  a stupid death. “You think maybe you should have brought a jumper.”

A follow-up to the Belgian company’s Kiss & Cry – a tough act to follow if there ever was one – the multi-media, finger-dancing production Cold Blood is not a disappointment.

Less transparent than its predecessor, the show opens with a jet plane travelling through a murky sky on the big screen.  As the screen slowly rises to reveal performers and crew at work, we see a model plane moving like a puppet on a stick in a tank of water cloudy with paint. As if in the process of making a radio drama, the production team is situated at different stations, the sound effect of a powerful storm coming from a drum hand-wound by a crew member. Director Jaco Van Dormael can be seen cueing and arranging, like the emcee of a three-ring circus.

This show is funnier too, thanks to Thomas Gunzig’s absurdist, voiced-over narrative. The first of seven deaths explored is stupid because he/she was the only fatality – having gone to the on-board toilet at the crucial moment.

Death can be gentle, violent, boring, unexpected, we hear.  The thing is, only in fantasies like Cold Blood does anyone get to tell about it. Never mind. The imagery of air travel – from the opening crash to the ending space launch enacted to David Bowie’s powerful  “Space Oddity,” stitches together the disparate scenes suggestive of heaven. Cars play a big role, most hilariously in the second death: by car wash. Two stagehands manipulate cylindrical feather dusters attached to drills, while Van Dormael  applies the big rinsing brush.  A window was left open and some part of the car-wash machinery is responsible for the catsup bloodbath that follows.

Cold Blood runs on the imagery and sound of popular film and music. Dance fans will love the 30s-style, tap-dance routine done on a glittering set with fingers in thimbles, not to mention the Busby Berkeley-esque  synchronized swimming number in which three pairs of hands with reflectors make beautiful kaleidoscopic moves through water. The hand doing a pole dance is pretty sexy too. Switching back and forth between the ridiculous (the latex glove worn by the astronaut hand) and the sublime (Anne De Mey’s sinuous solo seen through a window), Cold Blood draws our attention in many directions, including self-ward, when the audience gets its close-up in the klieg lights  ̶  through the curtains of a miniature stage where a finger-danced Bolero is performed.

All to say, another spectacle that shouldn’t be missed.


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