Theatre ARTaud present an ambitious new work, straddling political commentary and surrealism (which, if we’re honest, is that political commentary nowadays?). The new play, Blood + Soil, begins with the chorus as the audience enter, interacting and tempting the audience, while a devil-like character lurks. As we move in to the play, we’re presented with a parable about a small city in Canada who choose to secede, only to repeat the mistakes of the past in their own implementation and exertion of power and ownership.
I had mixed reactions to the piece. On one hand, I adored the clever playfulness of the chorus, and the intelligent commentary on current affairs as told through the parable. There were some very enjoyable performances, notably the riveting Amaka Umeh who plays Snowball, one of the lead revolutionaries. Additionally, the ongoing live accompaniment from Ivana Popovic served to create wonderful tension in the live performance.
On the other hand, I found the overall style of the production to be abrasive; there were a lot of scenes shouted, and although alienation is one of the basic tenets of Artaud’s work and much surrealist theatre, in a story-based performance such as this, I don’t think this was the specific alienation they were looking to achieve.
On the whole, I think the script could have used some tightening; there were a number of interesting and insightful observations created through the physical and verbal language of the performance, including some really stunning (and at times, shocking) imagery. Yet It left me with the feeling that it didn’t quite achieve its own goals.
Definitely a production that will challenge you intellectually in ways unlike what you will find from a lot of other performance in the city, so worth checking out if you’re looking for that stimulation.