BWW Review: AGAINST NATURE Translates the Bizarre into the Beautiful

BWW Review: AGAINST NATURE Translates the Bizarre into the Beautiful

Using the 1884 Joris-Karl Huysmans novel, À rebours as inspiration, James Kudelka brings a rich and intimate new modern opera to life - combining a decadent libretto and stunning choreography. AGAINST NATURE, now playing at The Citadel is Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie's latest work which tells the story of a Jean des Esseintes, an eccentric artist who retreats into a world of insolation to find solace. The piece, directed and choreographed by James Kudelka, stars Alexander Dobson and Laurence Lemieux and Geoffrey Sirett. A strong libretto by Alex Poch-Goldin paired with rich musical compositions by James Roffe serve as a powerful foundation to this piece.

À rebours became one the ultimate examples decadent literature as it broke Naturalism with its bizarre artistic narrative, AGAINST NATURE is a unique response and extension of the literature. The piece which finds strong inspiration from Joris-Karl Huysmans' story, uses the life Jean des Esseintes as a guide for its narrative. Living a strange life, the 60-minute performance highlights the ups and downs of his isolation, from studying French and Latin literature to perfume-making to his travels abroad. Though at times the narrative was so out of place it was hard to follow - namely the comical tortoise that makes an appearance near the middle. Still, it is the the self-aware eccentricity that makes it work, for the most part.

Alexander Dobson anchors the piece as The Master and seamlessly transitions between emotional and tonal fluctuations within the very abstract piece. Lemieux and Sirett act as both servants to The Master as well as players in the inner workings of his mind. Dobson and Sirett, both powerful baritones shine. The chemistry between Sirett and Lemieux throughout the intimate choreography is also worth noting.

Kudelka's direction and choreography add beautiful transitions and movement to the work - the actors move around the inimate stage and interact with the minimalistic set comprising of a desk and a few chairs. But it's the use of these set pieces that are constantly rearranged that add a deep artistic grounding to the work. Paired with the stunning projected backdrop designed by Jeremy Mimnagh, the creative team was able to curate an appropriate atmosphere in the cozy Citadel.

While the content and inspiration for AGAINST NATURE is nothing short of bizarre, the output and performance on display is a testament to strong creative mind.

AGAINST NATURE is playing until May 15. For more tickers or more information, visit

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