This was my first PuSh Festival show of the season, and boy was it a doozie!
I honestly had no idea what to expect, and the writeup didn’t help. And that was just fine by me, I was all ready to take whatever experimental mayhem the theatre would throw at me.
At first I was just… bemused. Performer and writer Kate McIntosh, along with her two sidekicks, just did a lot of strange quasi-slapstick antics, moving props around, getting in each other’s way… it looked frantic and meta, like a metaphor for the creative process, or behind-the-scenes work at any production. I couldn’t see a story or a pattern, but I patiently waited, trusting that it would all come together.
Then things got verbal. McIntosh and the others brought up abstract and/or deliberatly silly philosophical questions, and lectured us about Big Scientific Ideas, focusing on the Many Worlds Hypothesis—you know the one, it’s that interpretation of Quantum Mechanics that says every observation, every choice, actually branches off whole new universes that are just as real as the one we’re in now.
Schrodinger’s cat is both alive and dead when you open the box, in different realities. Instead of sitting in SFU’s Goldcorps Centre for the Arts, I could have tripped and fallen on the way to the show—fallen left, and I would have been killed by an oncoming truck; fallen right, and I would have found the love of my life.
(I didn’t make up that last example, by the way. McIntosh pointed in my general direction and speculated about the alternate lives of “the man over here.” I like that she was talking about a man meeting another man. Hey, it’s like she knew me!)
And so the audience got our brains massaged and stretched by the wonder of science, the weirdness of philosophy, and some general clowning around. Good stuff? Sure. Nothing too memorable though, I felt.
But then McIntosh lifted the backdrop a little.
Picture it: a solid black sheet pierced with little holes, lit from behind for a lovely starfield effect. And picture me: primed by all that high-flown cosmic cogitation, of time and space and higher realities. When the backdrop was lifted my brain clicked on the Aristotelian geocentric model, where stars are just holes in the outermost sphere (sound familiar?) letting in light from the Primum Mobile. This glimpse of the backstage lights, so bright to my dark-adapted eyes, was for a moment like looking into someplace outside reality. I was Dave Bowman entering the monolith, I was Dante reaching the heights of Paradise. It felt transcendent, almost a spiritual experience, and I don’t use that word lightly.
The play wound down soon after this. Its last few minutes were more quiet and low-key, letting me come down gently from my epiphanic climax—which didn’t stop me from gushing about it afterwards, repeatedly.
My brain was buzzing all the way back home, both at the experience, and the cleverness of juxtaposing such an old cosmology with modern theories. If indeed that was the intent. That’s the beauty of non-narrative performances like this, it’s easy to write your own interpretations. All I can say is, this is what I got out of it.
Fortunately I didn’t trip and fall once on the way home. On the downside, neither did I meet my future husband.