The Secret Project
by Adrienne Wong
Firehall Arts Centre http://www.firehallartscentre.ca/
reviewed November19, 2004
The Secret Project is an amazing small production that breaks down the barriers of the traditional proscenium arch between the audience and performers. It engages the audience, literally and physically transporting them through the show and the building, it seduces and pleads with them to choose sides in a revolution.
Director Adrienne Wong has created an interactive theatre production in which the audience first witness Dacia, the King Queen of Amnera, played by Nneka K. Croal, giving a political speech while assisted by her personal assistant Frances, played by Toni Rozylo.
It is apparent from the onset that this is not an ordinary theatre piece. The performers use stylistic physical gestures while they speak. This is the mark of Tangled Tongues Performance, a company that sets out to create physical theatre that “slices through the skin of social and political relationships to see what really makes the heart beat.” This affected physicality both emphasizes the performers words while distracting the eyes of the audiences. In short, it adds a whole new dimension to watching the performance. While it can be confusing, it puts the audience on edge, not knowing what to expect next.
And what happens next is an adventure. The audience is split up into two groups, following the ushers into the hallways and stairways of the physical space of the Firehall Arts Centre which itself becomes the kingdom of Amnera. Doors are renamed “Water Purification Plant” or “Hot Springs,” that aids in creating the suspension of disbelief that helps transport the audience into another time and space.
In our group on Friday night, we were approached by Frances, the King Queen's personal assistant, who revealed herself to be the underground leader of the Radio Zero Collective, revolutionaries of the people of Carvuun, now occupied by King Queen Dacia who creates a wonderful sensual sexually ambiguous character. And we, members of the audience are suddenly drawn into something we weren't prepared to be… unwitting participants in a revolution.
The audience is moved next down a hallway to the the Firehall Arts Centre rehearsal space now transformed into a antechamber or reception parlour for the King Queen. We witness an exchange between Frances and the King Queen over tea, that is both conversation and dance before it escalates to a peak and we are ordered to leave the room. “Now!” implores Frances.
Frances then takes us into another stairway hall to reveal more background information about the politics of Anmara and her role in it. We are next led to an area at the rear of the stage floor. The rest of the audience joins us, and we look each other suspectly, wondering what they have been told, and by whom.
The final climatic scene approaches as Frances scales a dam with the assignment to blow it up with explosives. The two characters face off and by now, half of the audience is secretly cheering for the revolutionary Francis. The other half is silently supporting the King Queen. The ensuing fight scene is set underwater. Lights and choreography produce good effect and the slow motion movements are wonderful to watch.
The Secret Project is an engaging piece that keeps the audience on its toes while moving them literally from set to set. The audience is kept wondering what will happen next and thus is forced from the role of passive observer. But to learn the whole story, the audience must come back to find out the rest of the story from the other performer. It is sort of like a children's adventure story, where you choose the story line options and jump to the corresponding pages, allowing you to re-read the book many times with different outcomes. This may ultimately be both a blessing and a curse. Because, at the play's conclusion, my companions and I wanted more. We wanted to know more about the ending and what was happening. Not used to experimental theatre, maybe we have become too complacent in pat endings for our movies and tv shows.
Created collaboratively from a series of workshops, Adrienne Wong, Toni Rozylo and Nneka K. Croal, have produced a work that challenges the audience to re-think not only the issues of the play happening them but also what happens in our own lives. After the play, my friends and I discussed how our society has evolved into a cocooned environment, where people spend much of their time on personal computers, internet games, dvd home theatre movies. The very idea of of inaction whether political or social recreational, is what Tangled Tongues Performance aimed to address with The Secret Project. Mission accomplished!
To find secrets, background information and audience feedback + director's notes check out: