British Installation theater week

At various venues from October 4 to 8. A Vancouver East Cultural Centre presentation. No remaining performances

I don't often carry the memory of a theatrical event in my feet. As I type this, though, and recall something a taxi driver in Liverpool said…, I can feel the flesh and bones inside my shoes expanding in a sort of humble rapture. There's a note of hunger, too. My feet want more.

Something a taxi driver in Liverpool said… was part of British Installation Theatre Week. On some level, all four of the week's presentations are about intimacy and humanizing scale. Taxi driver particularly excites me because the usual rules of going to the theatre don't apply. It's up to you as an audience member to take responsibility for your experience.

If the show were still running, I'd leave you to your own course of discovery, but it has left town so I'll tell you about mine. The company, Quarantine, creates an event for one audience member at a time. It takes about 10 minutes to walk through it. The stage manager led me to the loading door of the Vancouver East Cultural Centre's basement. Before opening it, he told me to leave my shoes and socks beside the rocking chair I'd find inside. Then he let me into a small room covered in pink floral wallpaper. As I sat in the rocker, I faced another door and a voice started encouraging me to open it. It said something like, "It's important that you open the door, if you find a mirror on the other side, or even if you only find the sound of the wind…"

Unsure whether or not my action was precipitous, I turned the handle and stepped forward before the voice had stopped talking, plunging myself into total darkness. I hate enclosed, enforced darkness; I get claustrophobic. But I could feel dirt beneath my naked feet, maybe grass, and that was reassuring. I found a wall on my left and felt my way. All sorts of textures-cloth, wood, burlap. Under my feet: sand, cement, and-a burst of luxury and childhood memory-straw. A woman's hand slipped into mine and led me to a bucket where we washed. Hands arrived and disappeared a couple of times-only there for a few moments, always tender.

My left foot kicked a cloth-covered box. It emitted a sound like breath. I knelt and opened it. A louder breath, perhaps a sigh, came from the box.

There were long minutes when I was on my own, wondering if I was lost. Eventually, a hand led me toward a door. I opened it and found another room. A chair sat on a circle of turf, my shoes and socks neatly placed in front of it. I sat down and a voice started talking about something a taxi driver in Liverpool said. It was about how people reveal themselves in the dark. I felt exhilarated, triumphant.

Every piece I saw at British Installation Theatre Week impressed me, including Of All the People in the World, an art installation. The company, Stan's Café, started with 32,805,041 grains of rice, one for every person in Canada, then divided them and displayed them to illustrate various human statistics. The pile labelled "Tutsis killed in Rwanda between 04/06/94 and 05/18/94" was shockingly large. Nearby, there was a single grain of rice above the label "Roméo Dallaire". My sudden understanding of the scale of the horror moved me.