by James Martin
Twelve barefoot people stand scattered about a room. Slowly, some begin
to walk, carving straight lines across the empty space. Others join in,
each walking their own trajectory. Paths cross, creating a complicated
grid of collisions and near misses. Electronic ambient soundscapes trickle
out of giant speakers, growing in complexity and density as paces quicken.
This is the world of Optik, and no two performances are ever the same.
Kate Bligh first saw a performance by the London-based company seven
Bligh, a part-time instructor in Concordias English and Theatre
Departments, was moved by its spontaneity and creativity.
When an opportunity arose to bring Optik to Montreal, she suggested to
founder-director Barry Edwards that the company workshop a new piece with
performers from her own fledgling Temenos theatre company. Unusually,
it just ran as a two-week intensive summer course.
Bligh chose 10 theatre students and four music students based on 500-word
application essays outlining why they were interested in the workshop
and what they hoped to get out of it.
The Optik philosophy, says Edwards, is about getting inside the impulse.
Jocelyn Wickett is a recent graduate of Concordias theatre performance
program and member of Temenos who enrolled in the course as an independent
Theres no narrative, no characters. As an actor, thats
a big thing to drop. Anything comes into your mind This person
has a wrinkle on their forehead and youre allowed to
let that in, but youre supposed to let it go and concentrate on
being present here and now: Im standing, Im walking, Im
looking. Youre not playing any intention or story.
Sadia Mahmood, another recent grad and Temenos member, said, The
goal is to open up your senses, so that whatever stimuli you take in you
can choose to act upon or not. Its a very real exercise in being
in the moment and truly engaging with being open, and with impulse.
The Optik Project culminated at the end of May with two indoor performances
at the Black Watch Drill Hall, and an outdoor performance at Place des
Bligh sees a need for this kind of training because it puts performers
very much in contact with why theyre doing something now,
rather than simply adhering to a remembered sequence of movements.
Optiks work, because it has no words, puts you smack in contact
with the pre-verbal. You can feel how rich and powerful and interesting
and creative it can be to engage yourself with what you feel like doing
next rather than having to constantly remember the directions youve