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Pigeons International

"The Other"

The Roundhouse, Vancouver, BC

January 12, 2001
By Courtney Bannon


This winter holiday, I was one of the frustrated travelers to face daunting lines at the airport and get hassled by airport security. (Who knew that needle-nosed pliers were considered weapons?) So when references to airport security interrogation began emerging in The Other, I was in stitches, since I could definitely relate.

A traveler in The Other removes everything from his pockets, takes off his coats, and even holds up his shirt up to his chin to expose his innocent chest. I anxiously awaited the moment for him to be asked to remove his shoes. It didnít happen. The Other was created in the spring of 2001, and at the time, its creator would have had no idea just how opportune its references to the absurdity of airport security would be.

The Other is a dance-drama piece inspired by the novel Balthazar and Blimunda by Nobel prize-winning Portuguese novelist Jose Saramago about the search for the beloved. Montreal choreographer and director Paula de Vasconcelos, has created a whimsical, comic and imaginatively staged multi-lingual work for seven performers.

There are three sets of characters: an arctic huntress and cave-dwelling hermit, a king and queen, and an airport security officer, a Ukrainian man, and a frail woman in his suitcase. After the captivating introduction of these three very distinct sets of characters, I wondered where this piece could possibly be going. Judging from the nervous laughter of the sold-out audience, I wasnít the only one who found delight in the bizarre combination of seemingly unrelated characters.

The chaos was soon lulled when a narrator took the audience by the hand, sat us down, and began to weave the story with a ďOnce upon a timeĒ, completing the pieceís overriding fairytale-feel. We learn that the queen cannot decide if she prefers to be a queen. She wants to ask the hermit what a king and queen must do to feel like a man and woman. The hermitís response is like a Zen Koan. The solution to the question is the main action of the creation, and all the characters evolve by abandoning their roles, finding new partners, and celebrating life.

All this takes place between two stands of audience, on a soft quilt of fur-skins that add to the sensual-nature of the work. Performers and props entered and exited from either side of the stage in ways that often made the stage floor look as though it was passing by like a conveyor belt. The three female performers were well-trained dancers, notably more than the men, but the choreography was tailored to highlight the strengths and of each performer and his or her character. Within the mix of spoken word and movement, the story unfolded in a fantastical, interesting, yet distanced manner.

Touchstone Theatre of Vancouver presented this Montreal company, Pigeons International, which was founded in 1987 by Paul-Antoine Taillefer and Paula de Vasconcelos. The company has been extremely successful, both in Montreal and internationally, on its European tours. Surprisingly, this was Vancouverís introduction to the company, and hopefully Pigeons International will return with another ingenious multi-lingual mix of dance and drama.

 

Please join a discussion of this performance in our forum.

Edited by Marie.


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