Stage Review: The Passion Project – beautiful, perplexing, infuriating

Video artist Reid Farrington is definitely master of his craft with The Passion Project, currently playing at the Pacific Theatre through February 6, 2010 as part of the 2010 PuSh International Performing Arts Festival. At times beautiful, perplexing and infuriating, Reid’s homage to a silent film classic is like nothing I have seen before.

The Passion ProjectBeautifulthere is no mistaking the beauty in what Farrington and Laura K. Nicoll (pictured right), as the solo performer in the piece, have created here. As images from Carl Th. Dreyer’s 1928 classic silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc are projected, Nicoll executes a beautiful ballet of movement as the film unfolds. Nicoll, who is a professional dancer, is at her best as she moves across the confined performance space flawlessly executing on Farrington’s intricate cues. (In the talkback after the show Farrington said Nicoll must hit some hundred cues every minute during the short 30 minute performance).

Perplexing – technically this is an amazing piece of work, but to the techno-geek in me it was also perplexing. As Nicoll moves about the ten by ten square performance space, images from Dreyer’s film are projected on small parchment screens. But rather than simply projecting on static or stationery screens, Nicoll moves about the space variously hanging the screens from ropes and moving them about the space as the images are projected. More times than not I stood watching the performance trying to figure out how it all worked and how it was possible for Nicoll to actually hit all her marks necessary to make the piece work.

Infuriating – not only was I infuriated because of my inability to figure out the technical, I also found myself infuriated by certain elements of the piece itself. Because of Farrington’s use of the parchments, which only shows snippets of the film, we do not entirely get a sense of what makes The Passion of Joan of Arc so compelling. With so much movement (along with Nicoll’s constant dance the audience can also move around the performance space), it was next to impossible to follow what was happening in the film. Equally as infuriating was Farrington’s soundscape which includes him talking about the film in small sound bites that were rarely understood and added little value to the action going on stage.

For me The Passion Project is more art than theatre. But ultimately, no matter what what you might think, it’s beauty is unmistakable.

3 1/2 of 5 StarsThe Passion Project
Pacific Theatre, 1440 West 12th Avenue
27 January – 6 February 2010

Part of the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, Pacific Theatre presents this performance piece by video artist Reid Farrington compressing Carl Theodor Dreyer’s classic silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc into a 30-minute concentration of movement, projection, installation, and sound collage. Tickets are $17-$24 available by calling 604.731.5518 or online at http://www.pacifictheatre.org.

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