Maresa von Stockert’s company, Tilted Productions, has for the last six years focused on creating dance theatre for the outdoors. Their latest production, Constructions of Thin Air, marks a return to the stage, with an intergenerational cast ranging in age from their early 20s to their 60s.
The stage in question is filled with records and cardboard boxes. Alone or, occasionally, with each other, the nine performers explore their environment, constructing an increasingly inventive cardboard playground.
Records slide down temporary shoots. Bodies are squeezed into boxes. But as playful as these ideas are, the performers’ actions themselves are ordered and mechanical, conducted with a straight face and serious approach.
As interesting and visually eclectic as this opening is, you begin to wonder what else might happen. Thankfully, Maresa von Stockert and her company have not lost sight of their audience. Before long, the systematic approach of the opening breaks down and chaos reigns.
The imaginations of these performers are allowed to run wild. A pair of wings are built from record sleeves, while upstage a tea party takes place. In such moments, the varied ages of the company add a great richness to the work, providing a spread of ideas and imagery that may not otherwise have been brought into existence. They are images of absurdity, intrigue and humour, and as senseless as the proceedings of Act One are, it is nonetheless engaging.
Act Two opens upon a room, its walls built of boxes and filled with a few belongings, which are soon gathered and packed away. It’s a simple and clever set design that immediately links this act, very different in tone and style, with the preceding one. The room left bare, there’s a distinct sense of a chapter being closed, of a life moving on.
One remaining photo album offers a reminder of the lives that played out between these walls. As if its presence brings these memories into being, the work slips into a series of fleeting scenes and images.
No performer remains in scene for long. Regardless of age or size, the company lean on and support one another, briefly resting in another’s presence before the next image takes over. Now, instead of boxes, it is people who are carried tenderly into place or dragged gently away. Each action is conducted with great care and tenderness so that, without providing anything specific, we are given a sense of the past connections and relationships between these characters, of the lives and stories that played out within this small space.
Constructions of Thin Air is a delicately structured work. Each act could theoretically stand alone but, shown together, they resonate profoundly together. Without making any bold statements, the show provides, very simply and clearly, a sense of human interactions and experiences. Its understated approach allows the viewer to connect in whatever way they relate to the work, and the result is a piece that is both powerful and poignant.
Constructions of Thin Air was at The Place until March 10th. For more details, including future dates, click here.