Review: The Three-Cornered Hat, at Chapel Arts until July 11

What is The Three-Cornered Hat? Most definitely not the Spanish ballet that premiered in 1919. The Georgia Straight describes it as “a powerful and profound study of movement and space”.

The Three-Cornered Hat always provides something interesting to see and listen to, even if the purpose and meaning are not clear.

Post-modern narratives like this one have no beginning or end, shift among different points of view, and snatch away meanings just as you start to make sense. You have to be willing to give up the concept of linearity and just go with the flow, literally (and part of this story is set on a rushing river).

As is the current trend in multimedia productions, there are times during this production that several things are happening in such a way that you cannot possibly pay attention to all of them. If you watch one part, you will miss another part. This technique can be frustrating, but it serves as a reflection of the impossibility of seeing all or hearing all or knowing all in the real world.

As for the videography by Candelario Andrade, I loved the interplay of shadows, shapes, and what I thought of as animated comic books on the projected screen.

The choreography by Jennifer Mascall is impressive. (Read more about Mascall: The dancers are lithe, agile, a joy to watch.

I felt the voice of the storyteller (Barbara Adler, whom I recognize particularly for her fantastic accordion work) could have been emphasized a bit more. The disembodied voice is less memorable than having a voice connected to, if not a person, at least a mechanical entity. The voice feels less real than the movement which I can see. What does that signify, I wonder?

What is the meaning of all these red books? (Remember Mao’s Little Red Book? No explicit connection is made, but that’s what comes to mind for me.) It produces a twinge of pain for me, and probably other people with an inherent love of books, to see books being walked upon and tossed about and draped over heads and used as fishing bait, even if I realize the artistic significance, and even if I realize it’s perfectly okay for this to be happening. This work does affect one viscerally.

Both my companion and myself felt we did not comprehend this piece. Given that comprehension is not the point, do not let that stop you from seeing it. I would wish that there was better ventilation in the Chapel Arts space, though, as it can get a bit stuffy and hot.

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