BWW Review: I Forgot Your Name: REQUIEM POP at Agora De La Danse
Helen Simard's REQUIEM POP has been mounted at L'Agora de la danse. Produced in collaboration with the dance department at L'Université de Québec à Montréal, Godberd, Playwright's Workshop Montreal, Studio 303, Théâtre Mainline, and Urban Element Zone, it will run through April 13th.
Choreographer, dancer, dramaturge, producer, and general artistic powerhouse Helen Simard is what all young whippersnappers should aspire to be: an adult whippersnapper, who has matured from snot-nosed punk to a respectable grownup punk, complete with an illustrious career, beautiful partnership, and very tall teenage child. She has done all of this without losing any of her creative edge-her edge has sharpened, focused by experience and the constant drive for excellence. You get the sense, watching her work, that she truly does not give a good goddamn what you think. Whether or not that is true is irrelevant. She doesn't have to care, really. She's that good.
NO FUN (2014), IDIOT (2017), and REQUIEM POP are all love letters to a hero of Simard's-Iggy Pop: the godfather of punk, the infamous Stooge, and a person who is surprisingly still alive, despite his best efforts (I had to Google it). Not unlike Iggy, REQUIEM POP does not shy away from self-destruction: the show builds until it self-immolates-and then, weirdly, manages to recover. The deconstruction of many things-Iggy's music, the conventions of dance and storytelling, the boundaries between performer and audience, the use of the space-are the right kinds of envelope-pushing to tick off all the highbrow boxes, while managing the nearly impossible task of also not being boring.
Iggy Pop has always been as much a figure of absurdity as he is innovation-he's an innovator because of his absurdity, and not in spite of it. REQUIEM POP honours that spirit. There is a stone-cold, ballsy joviality to the work, which takes manic shifts into wells of frenetic paranoia, uncompromising seriousness, and confrontational anger. Each of the dancers, despite looking completely different from one another, also have something very deeply Iggy to them that makes them a consistent unit. Stacey Désilier has Iggy's steely vulnerability. Stéphanie Fromentin has his indigo-child intensity. Angéique Willkie has his approachableness. Justin Gionet, his playfulness. Sébastien Provencher resembles a young Iggy (albeit much better looking), and along with Gionet and Sarah Williams embodies the gender play that has been such a hallmark of Iggy's career. Williams is the dancer in whom I saw the most of Iggy-especially in her wily smile, which made me feel like she knew many things that I did not. She was in on some joke, but the smile made me feel like I was going to understand it soon.
There are so many things to love about REQUIEM POP that it's hard for me to do my due diligence as a critic and find some kind of constructive thing to harp on. Only one thing stuck out, but once I noticed it I couldn't write it off: all of these extremely interesting interpretations of Iggy's music, and the heartbeat of it all is going to be... an electric drum pad system? Seriously? What would the Stooges think, Helen?
Despite this single travesty, the music is excellent. During one synchronized sequence, the wall-of-sound quality to the music (performed by Jackie Gallant, Roger White, and Ted Yates, the latter two of the rock band Dead Messenger), music-video flashing of the lighting design (by Benoit Larivière), and the sheer bigness of the dance, I was brought back to my philosophy education. Kant spoke of the beautiful, which is anything pleasing, and the sublime, which is things that are pleasing while simultaneously disturbing, because they are too much for you to fully comprehend, and give you the impression they could destroy you: the crashing sea. Grief. Too many drugs. Then I was brought back by the absolute bop of a bassline, remembered where I was, and what a pretentious jerk I am, and burst into joyful laughter. I had a hard time wiping a smile from my face for most of the performance. It feels good knowing genius is out there, and she's the spokesperson for the Montreal Fringe Festival this year.
Tickets for REQUIEM POP are selling fast, but I got my ticket for what was supposed to be a sold-out opening night at the last minute. Remember, they can't stop you if you all rush the stage at once. Bring cash for the merchandise table, because this show has the best merch ever (you don't need to be a fan of Iggy, or even have seen this show, to want a t-shirt that says "IDIOT", "NO FUN", "I FORGOT YOUR NAME", or has a picture of Iggy Pop's face with "Jim Morrison" written under it, do you?). Try to get a seat near the front if you can. And if you're sensitive to noise, pick up a pair of complementary earplugs. You'll still be able to hear everything. It's gonna get loud.
You can find out more about Agora de la danse at their website.
You can find out more about Helen Simard at her website.
There are performances of REQUIEM POP at 7 pm on the 11th and 12th of April, and 4 PM on the 13th. You can find more information, and a link to buy tickets online here.
Agora de la danse wrote in their program that they would like to acknowledge location on unceded Kanien'kehá:ka territory. The traditional name for this land is Tio'tia:ke. I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on your relationship with the land and the Indigenous peoples on it.