The lights turn on and several white blocks of different sizes and shapes are positioned across the stage. What they represent is still vague until the music starts. Suddenly it is a field and the actors are galloping through it. All dressed in white, the actors dance and laugh across the stage in a sheep-like manner.
Humans directed by Liz Valdez explores 15 different short stories written by Daniel MacIvor in 1994 for his one-man show House. Valdez adapted MacIvor’s Humans into a play 15 years ago. The stories revolve around the human experience and the feelings attached to it.
With Humans the audience has to use its imagination to picture the different scenes. This is because the set is completely white and the locations of the stories vary. However Dumisizwe Vuyo Bhembe’s live music performance helps set the tone and takes the audience to where the stories are. Whether it is a little girl’s room or at a man’s apartment downtown Montreal, the live music and the lighting will without a doubt take the audience there.
For the purpose of the play Valdez decided not to present the stories in the same order as they are in MacIvor’s book. She also divided some of those stories and dispersed them thought the play, which sometimes facilitated the transitions.
Not only are the stories not linked together, but some of them are not even really stories. Three are lists : objects, concepts, ideas, desires and so on. It is all about paying close attention to the words in the lists to get a better idea of the characters. The list does not have to belong to only one person; it can be a group of women chatting in the kitchen and a bunch of men smoking in the lounge.
Because Humans was not written as a play, it makes it harder to link the scenes together. Veronique Gaudreau’s choreography did a great job at not only expressing the characters’ visceral emotions but also at making the transitions easier for the audience. The use of projections behind the set, however, did not add much to the play. It was pretty, but not necessary.
The actors’ performances were impressive on a physical level. They had to use their bodies a whole lot with the choreography and mimicking. The actors had to play different characters in different stories, which made it hard for the audience to get to know each one of them better. However, they all managed to make people laugh or even make them uncomfortable.
Overall, Humans was good, destabilizing and refreshing. It is not the usual linear play and that is exactly what makes it special. Valdez gave life and meaning to MacIvor’s words and found a way to make those 15 short stories work for theatre.
Humans plays at the Segal Center until Feb. 13. For more information, check out www.tableaudhotetheatre.ca.