Direction and Choreography by Raphaëlle Boitel
Emerson Paramount Theater
Washington Street, Boston
March 30 – April 2, 2023
Artistic Collaboration, Lighting and Set Design: Tristan Baudoin; Original Music: Arthur Bison
With Alba Faivre, Vassiliki Rossillion, Tia Balacey, Mohamed Rarhib, Nicolas Lourdelle, Alain Anglaret
Shadows Cast, indeed, is a doubly loaded title for this psychologically dramatic presentation that works its magic by presenting acrobatic dancers doing all kinds of amazing things amid lighting designs that work a series of wonders. It’s hard to say exactly what the narrative is, though it is poetic and suggestive of a family in which some kind of trauma or difficulty has occurred and communication does not take place. A daughter seeks resolution with her father who is obdurate and unresponsive. What has happened that requires reconciliation? We don’t know exactly, but it’s not good.
Meanwhile, a cast of characters, some representing family members, some representing clinicians, and others representing facets of the characters’ lives, prevail upon, and above, the stage, with a kind of balletic drama and grace that is magnified by masterful circus acrobatics. Whether climbing a rope with their feet upside down or flying literally over the audience on a rope swing, or just bending in all sorts of incomprehensible ways, they exhibit incredible and indeed, amazing, grace. While collectively telling this dramatic story through these stunning movements, the production creates an emotional mosaic that conveys a sense, partially tragic, partially comic, of complicated and unsettling family history.
Though thematic like other creative circus productions from Cirque du Soleil or Les 7 Doigts de la Main this production is darker, moodier, more emotionally wrought, its overall effect that of a tragicomic dramatic poem in light and shadow.
The lighting designed by Tristan Baudoin is exquisite and almost unlike anything I’ve ever seen. With subtle manipulation of simple white light, the illusion of walls produces a stirring and mystifying opportunity within which the movements of the dancers play hypnotically, careening back and forth through the seemingly solid walls of light, appearing and disappearing in the mist.
The sound design by Nicolas Gardel and original musical compositions by Arthur Bison are highly evocative, contributing consistently to the prevailing pitched and dramatic tone. The compositions have the drive of Philip Glass’ work; though not as musically complex, they are insistent, intense, and compel one’s attention.
The acrobatic choreography is wonderful and the dancers exquisite, though moves sometimes repeat a bit too much; at times, one wonders if a little more variety might be in the offing. But, like the repetitive but compelling music, the choreography also has charm in its repetition, so though its repetitiveness comes to mind, it is not a detraction from the overall effect.
Some particular notes on the performance:
Dancing on the rope while reciting an account of childhood. She swings out over the audience! Ouch. And she lets go of her hands!
An older, sizable man approaches a metronome, accompanied now by two other women and two other men.
Encounters, breakages, while running across the stage. Firing of machine guns – they all get shot.
Strobe and acrobatics – fascinating! Wonderful dance enhanced by acrobatics. Almost like a series of flash snapshots.
The father sits at the table, avoiding encounter orders food.
A bride and groom frantic before a wedding. The chairs are brought.
Music is energetic and great. Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Waters amidst a rat-a-tat-tat.
Seated around the tale, a confrontation; the woman fights. Then they all fight, including the bride.
Interesting shadows on the back wall!
Woman with dark hair also a great acrobatic dancer. A lot of twirling and turning on the floor. The music is relentless, but pleasantly so. Wonderful display of shadows and light.
The bride climbs the ladder. A guy gesticulates in the shadows. The dark haired woman gyrates. The man twirls on the suspended rope midair. The slats of the chair. The two women talk on the grass while the man in the tie hovers.
A goof with the radio the guy can’t turn off. Then it plays unbearably loudly. He screams at it.
Subliminal insinuating voices. Charged repetitive music. The man is an acrobat too – he can spin on his hands!
Ever changing shadows in the background. He’s holding the radio and it’s the only light.
A woman in a red chair. The line of light looks like a solid wall. An interview. It’s a therapist. His echoes behind the screen. A guy now in therapy. Jumping through the wall of light = a very cool effect!
The suspended woman upside down; she climbs the rope perilously. Splayed fringes of light as she climbs up and down.
Father and daughter. He calls her imbecile. She faces her father at the table. More piercing and penetrating music. They race back and forth in a pyramid cone of light. Acrobatic dancing quite enthralling but some limits on the variety of moves. Now they’re all going at it, flipping like crazy.
Father leaves stage as light cone collapses.
Man at table, red phone. Now he’s being pulled up into the air by the table. Arms resting on the table as he’s elevated – very cool effect. Hilarious – musical chairs. They embrace. Honky-tonk music.
You didn’t know you were adopted? She crouches. She’s being thrown in the background. With episodic lighting, very spooky. She gets a call about her aged father. Then she is led away by the attendant at what seems like a mental hospital. Music very pronounced – simple but affecting.
Overall: Poetic, intense, open to much interpretation, but full of vivid movement, stimulating music, and vividly inventive lighting. Only an hour and ten minutes. Well worth it.
– BADMan (aka Charles Munitz)