Cinerama frames urban sea views in weird and wonderful ways

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      Created by Steven Hill and Alex Lazaridis Ferguson in collaboration with Delia Brett. Directed by Steven Hill. A Fight With a Stick Performance production. At Spanish Banks on June 16. Continues to June 30

      Fight With a Stick Performance has been upending the very definition of theatre since it used to be Leaky Heaven Circus, and its newest offering, Cinerama, is no exception. The group describes it as “live cinema” but with no actors, story, or plot. If that sounds like heady stuff, well, it is, but it’s also a wildly original, unforgettable night.

      The instructions that Fight With a Stick emails in advance of Cinerama’s start time are both frustratingly cryptic and curiously precise. They also come with a warning: “Be prepared to get wet up to your knees.” “The knees", it turns out, are relative.

      Cinerama begins with a long, solitary walk out to low tide at Spanish Banks. Every audience member is given noise-cancelling headphones for the walk, and organizers stagger our departures to ensure we’re each trudging across the beach alone. At the destination, there are wooden chairs all facing the same direction, spread out into small groups of four or five and separated over a large stretch of sand. We’re all staring across the water and into the horizon, shore to our left, the ever-present line of oil tankers to our right.

      It is a perfect day: endless blue sky, sunlight glinting off the water, the tide warm on my feet as my toes sink into the sand and seaweed tangles around my ankles. Small portable speakers begin quietly playing an almost continuous loop of urban-industrial sounds—trains speeding by, an airplane taking off, the clanking of metal on metal—interrupting our quiet communion with nature. As a statement on the effects of urban sprawl on the environment, or the ways industry is disrupting humanity’s connection to the earth, it’s not subtle but it is effective.

      The water climbs up my calves. In the distance, five pairs of people start walking toward us carrying what look like enormous empty frames.  When they reach our seats, they position themselves throughout the group, and each large rectangle has the effect of transforming the space into a de facto drive-in. In a feat of synchronization, the people holding the screens are tasked with repeatedly raising them a couple inches, and lowering them back down, almost imperceptibly small actions that momentarily change our view.

      We’re all seeing the same thing but differently—each of us, for better or worse, at home in ourselves, our minds, and our own bodies. The tide continues to rise, my chair sinks deeper into the sand, and every time a wave hits me gently in the crotch, I can’t help but think, 'I love you, Vancouver.'Cinerama is a beautiful, weird, unforgettable work of art.