Silent Singer Speaks Volumes

Kimberly Tuson (upper left), Todd Woffinden, Tara Friedenberg and Lindsay Sterk show absolute precision in the performance piece The Singer Falls Silent.

Kimberly Tuson (upper left), Todd Woffinden, Tara Friedenberg and Lindsay Sterk show absolute precision in the performance piece The Singer Falls Silent.

Silent singer speaks volumes

The Singer Falls Silent
At Performance Works until Oct. 11
Tickets: 604-257-0366

Reviewed by Jo Ledingham

An intelligent, playful work by creator/performer/director Conrad Alexandrowicz, The Singer Falls Silent definitely won't fall on deaf ears. It adds a quirky new voice to the discussion about the inadequacy of language-a debate playwright Samuel Beckett and later writers have engaged in for some time.

Even lost as I was now and again, I was still enchanted by this highly physical performance piece from the moment the first actor/dancer made an entrance, inhaled, appeared ready to speak, looked confused and bewildered, then made an embarrassed exit. What follows is a little more than an hour's litany of analogies as straightforward as "Popcorn will pop like popcorn," as gory as "Stuck pigs will bleed like stuck pigs" and as political as "Protesters will be lined up and shot like protesters being lined up and shot." Analogy after analogy pours forth as the four performers, under the manipulation of bowler-hatted Alexandrowicz, speak the words individually or in unison. In a piece that's choreographed and recited with absolute precision, the performers (Kimberly Tuson, Todd Woffinden, Tara Friedenberg and Lindsay Sterk) sit, speak, move, howl and dance to make what is fundamentally an intellectual exercise engaging, amusing and visually compelling. Adrian Muir's bold lighting design illuminates a 16-foot boardroom table, 16 chairs and four microphones while Alexandrowicz "conducts" from the shadows at an oak desk atop which sits a glowing laptop computer and a bowl of apples.

Inspired by the ideas of German novelist/playwright Peter Handke, The Singer Falls Silent mocks our use of language as a means of bringing order or understanding to our lives. Claiming "The world will come to an end like the world coming to an end" will not prevent or postpone Armageddon. Neither will saying "The children will suffer like children suffering" relieve us of the responsibility for children suffering.

The ultimate irony is, of course, that in exposing the imprecision or the downright failure of language, we use language. Despite Handke and Alexandrowicz's mistrust of language, they, too, are wordsmiths. As the seemingly innocent comparisons ("Bees will buzz like bees buzzing") gradually shift to references to jetliners, twin towers and crushed humanity, The Singer Falls Silent becomes prophetic: "The infection will spread like an infection" and "The world will be indescribable like the indescribable world." In the end, Alexandrowicz concludes, "What we cannot speak about we must consign to silence."

Ironically (in view of what we had just experienced), the lobby of Performance Works buzzed with chatter after opening night. What would have made The Singer Falls Silent completely startling would have been Alexandrowicz, in his black suit, white shirt and bowler hat, manipulating our conversation with commands like "Talk." "Resume." "Repeat." Our babble would have been exposed as babble and for those who didn't get Alexandrowicz's message during the performance, the sound of pennies dropping would have been like the sound of pennies dropping.

"Critics will be simplistic like critics," says one of the characters. Words fail. But if you love this language, see this Wild Excursions Performance production.

Past Production Posters

This Is A Dance