Collage: Homage to Kurt Schwitters

Dates and Venue 8-16 December 2006 @ Studio 16

Reviewer Ed Farolan

You enter this small intimate theatre of Studio 16 and you see this collage of garbage a la Kurt Schwitters who was one of the pioneers, if not the pioneer, of collage art. Then, an actor dressed in his brown Nazi costume comes in blurting racist tunes against a Canadian multicultural protagonist, whilst the director, Ashley Rutherford, ushers him out, saying that they should settle their differences outside of the theatre.

Then the play starts with multimedia effects: a voiced recording of the life of German collage pioneer Kurt Schwitters, while a screen in the middle of the garbage-collage set projects works of this artist.

The rest of the play is a philosophical collage, imitating the philosophy and works of Schwitters: racist slurs, black comedy reflecting the "garbage" philosophy of this German sculptor/garbage collector, and all in all, an enlightening play, true to the mission of this noveau theatre group called "enlightenmenttheatre".

The show combines audience participation, actors playing multiple roles, and a bunch of young actors (with the exception of veteran actor/playwright Stephen B. Archibald) acting really well.

All these new theatre groups mushrooming all over Vancouver have their roots in the Fringe Festival. In fact, in the talk session after the show, the next production of this group will be at the next Fringe. Co-director/Founder David Benedict Brown would like to do another play by Ian Kluge who has latest book of plays, The Gender Wars Trilogy, published by amazon.com.

During the talk session after the matinee show on the 16th, an audience member asked if some were offended by the racist slurs blurted out by the actors. Most of the actors answered yes, but they added that for them, it was a challenge, especially Ryan Hauser who played the neo-nazi racist in his two-minute tirade against anything non-white and dreaming of a White Canada.

He said it was difficult for him to do this monologue (which was cut from 5 minutes to 2), but due to the generosity of the playwright, he allowed the actors to "run free" with the script, editing it and adapting it to their needs.

Another audience member commented that he liked the scene with the optometrist which dealt with having a multicultural vision of Canada and the world, and not the myopic one that many racists have. I particularly liked the graduation scene, where graduates of the School of Schwitters demonstrated how they "unlearned" everything learned from schools.

In the playwright's notes, he mentions that he was inspired by Schwitters because his work was the "perfect model for our modern global and multicultural world where differences of all kinds share a common space (the planet), each retaining their own identity (national, cultural or religious) but at the same time interacting with others to produce a unified effect."

This is an extremely good theatre group. I hope they stay together and come up with excellent productions like this one in the future.

© 2006 Ed Farolan