BWW Review: IKUMAGIALIIT Celebrates Self-Exploration And Strength In The Face Of Fear
Presented as part of Harbourfront Centre's The Festival of Cool: Arctic, IKUMAGIALIIT (Inuktitut for "those that need fire") is an experiential journey presented by a four woman performance art band, who collectively go by the name Ikumagialiit. Made up of Christine Tootoo, Cris Derksen, Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory and Jamie Griffiths, the 90-minute performance delves into their shared and individual experiences with their culture and their work to combat fear and oppression, both individually and as a community.
Despite the lack of language in the piece, the ideas of IKUMAGIALIIT are presented so emotionally and passionately that you forget the cast rarely speaks. Projection and light work (Griffiths) aids actors in their storytelling, and where words fail music rises to fill the gaps (Derksen) via electric cello, which provides a lush, at times chilling soundtrack through Derkson's use of a loop pedal and small soundboard on stage. The piece is anchored around Williamson Bathory's character, whose skills in song, dance, and acting all get a chance to shine. Her uaajeerneq (a traditional mask dance from Greenland) fulfills the three main elements the art form is based on - fear, humour, and sexuality - in an unpredictable, fourth-wall shattering climactic point in the show.
Another grounding character in the performance is Tootoo, who acts as a spiritual guide of sorts. Her light, melodic voice works wonderfully alongside Williamson Bathory's throat singing, and she drops a jaunty number on the button accordion that boosts the story after a particularly heavy point. Collaboration seems to be at the core of IKUMAGIALIIT and given the acclaim each creator brings to the story, it's no surprise to find that their varied fields of expertise blend together so fluidly.
As someone who went into the performance with a limited understanding of the cultures presented, I found that it was incredibly easy to perceive - to some degree - the meaning behind the actions on stage. The ease with which Williamson Bathory conveys the themes, characters, and feelings of a woman journeying through her own fear is incredible; every moment keeps you guessing what will happen next, sometimes in awe, sometimes anxious, and always entranced. IKUMAGIALIIT is a roller coaster of beautiful highs and foreboding lows, but in the hands of this multi-faceted cast, it's a wild ride that has a firm hold on the story it tells.
Ikumagialiit's IKUMAGIALIIT ran November 12 at the Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W, Toronto, ON.
For more information, visit https://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/festivalofcool/events/index.cfm?id=10809&festival_id=336
Photo courtesy of Harbourfront Centre