A Kate McIntosh production. A PuSh International Performing Arts Festival presentation. At SFU Woodward’s in the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts on Wednesday, January 28. Continues until January 30
In the most farcical way possible, Dark Matter takes on big questions of quantum physics, but it may be chaos theory—on second thought, make that pure chaos—that the show delivers most.
By the end of this dance-theatre-meets-performance-art work from Brussels, the stage is littered with flour dust, multicoloured Ping-Pong balls, puddles of water, paper bags, popped balloons, and rope, the detritus of 80 minutes of science experiments gone goofily awry. In a riff on a classic physics trick, several amplified metronomes spend the final minutes clicking out of synch in the dark—a trip into the void if ever there was one.
Don’t come here looking for the answers to the meaning of existence; Dark Matter plays with notions of what we don’t, and cannot, know. Instead, it pushes things into a realm of absurdity, with a clumsiness and loose structure that are intentional but that viewers will find frustrating. Still, you have to admire what it’s trying to do, recasting real physics tests into a strange, boozy realm of a Blue Velvet–worthy retro nightclub.
Magnetic Kiwi-turned-Belgian Kate McIntosh is the smoky-voiced, blue-martini-slurping vixen who hosts the evening, looking like a cabaret singer in a ridiculously sparkly emerald-green dress. Her assistants are two incongruous, tweed-suited schlubs (Thomas Kasebacher and Bruno Roubicek), meant to look like bumbling science professors suddenly dropped into a theatre show.
There are no words at first, just a frantic vision of all the players running about the stage to the sounds of deliriously retro, Tonga Room–style beats, performing half-ass physics experiments, using planks, boards, balloons, bags with holes in them, and copious amounts of fog from a handheld smoke machine. It is an anarchic blur, antitheatrical in its failed tricks.
Things become considerably more surreal. Without giving too much away, consider this scene: a man lying motionless on the floor, his head and face completely covered in a big pile of flour, breathing through a tube hooked up to a microphone, while our sequin-dressed host talks melodramatically about how “tonight will be a night of questions, the bigger the better”. When the lights go down and the stage becomes a sea of twinkling stars, things get even weirder. There are messy experiments on a rolled-in science table (not all are empirical; watch a soggy napkin become the model for the subconscious), and a sequence where our two nutty professors act as bizarre backup singers in an existentialist musical number. When our emcee “disappears” into another dimension, we wait, and wait, for her return—one of the show’s many awkward pauses.
At one point McIntosh asks, “It’s too much, isn’t it?” and as much as some might enjoy this ironic trip into an alternate dimension, you have to agree. It probably is.