The Electric Company brings a visually stunning show to Canadian Stage with their remounted work Studies in Motion: The Hauntings of Eadweard Muybridge.
The story is drawn from the life of Muybridge, a 19th century photographer who completed extensive photographic investigations of animal and human locomotion using instantaneous photography.
Much of this production is absolutely thrilling to view, beginning with the first sequence of several naked actors walking, running, posing, and moving across a grid on the stage.
The play has a great deal of precision—one scene flows seamlessly into the next. The stage is bare aside from simple props that are rolled on and off. Places are beautifully established using various projections and imaginative lighting created by Robert Gardiner.
A major strength of this production is when the ensemble works together through movement. The choreography by Crystal Pite is powerful and detailed, gorgeously illustrating the photographer’s work as well as various dramatic events of his life (murder, jealously, an illegitimate child and a dash of madness).
During one scene, a murder is reenacted and the male actors mirror the movements of the character being killed; it’s like watching a stop motion film. Visually this production is like Christmas, a stream of dazzling gifts are presented—the next more magnificent than the last.
Unfortunately, the script by Kevin Kerr lacks depth so the characters and relationships come across as flimsy. It’s all on the surface and as a result the acting was often stilted. Andrew Wheeler who plays the character Eadweard Muybridge doesn’t have enough levels in his work.
What a thrilling subject Kerr had to explore with, but I was left wanting more. My desire was to be moved emotionally by his story and I wasn’t. A stand out for me was Jonathon Young who played Larkyns. He infuses the perfect blend of humor, energy and naturalism into his performance.
Overall, there is so much to delight in Studies in Motion that I highly recommend it. The visual elements of the production are stellar. Collier recently won the Siminovitch Prize, a prize that is awarded to professional directors who have made a significant creative contribution to at least three theatre projects in Canada. The innovation of the Electric Company shines through in this show.
Photo Credits: Tim Matheson