BWW Review: Multi-faceted Memories Create a Personalized Experience in DECLARATIONS

BWW Review: Multi-faceted Memories Create a Personalized Experience in DECLARATIONS

If you've ever lost someone you loved, you know how uniquely devastating the experience can be. In Jordan Tannahill's stage creation, DECLARATIONS, we see the raw product of that pain delivered through the fascinating mind of Tannahill and his five dancers.

DECLARATIONS is a ménage of memories. Receiving the shattering news that his mother had less than two years left to live, Tannahill boarded a plane "feeling more broken than ever" - as he writes in the program notes. During that six-hour plane ride, the text for DECLARATIONS was completed.

The piece begins with one dancer, alone on stage. Accompanied by Tannahill's text via teleprompter, the dancer is guided through a series of movements, forming a quasi-improvisational dance. The freedom given to the dancer adds remarkable layers of subtext to the piece, inviting diverse perceptions to communicate specific memories from the author. However, that same freedom has a negative effect on Tannahill's text, with certain improvisations missing the mark - causing the energy to flat line in spots.

At first glance his libretto is quite random, concentrating on declarative statements like, "This is a condo gym." "This is feminism." "This is the point." "This is not the point." Tannahill then builds on this simple structure to craft sophisticated sequences like, "This is grade four. This is recess. This is recession. This is what's left."

The rapid pace of the text combined with the adrenaline rush of improvisation creates a sort of manic exhilaration in the theatre. It's hard to look away when you haven't seen anything like it.

The five ensemble members - Liz Peterson, Jennifer Dahl, Philip Nozuka, Robert Abudo, and Danielle Baskerville - are all too wonderful to single anyone out. (Although Nozuka's smooth singing voice was quite lovely, creating a sultry mood near the end of the piece.)

During the 70 minute program I found myself laughing, reflecting, and lamenting. The personalized nature of the show's structure invites you to examine your own memories from your seat, while sharing the archive of Tannahill's. He says he hoped his piece would, "create an archive, fated to be woefully incomplete, of a life lived." After Tannahill's absorbing, beautiful experience, I feel like I know his mother now - through the lens of my own story.

DECLARATIONS by Jordan Tannahill is being presented by Canadian Stage through February 11, 2018 at the Berkeley Street Theatre.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

photo credit: Jennifer Dahl, Robert Abubo, Philip Nozuka, Liz Peterson and Danielle Baskerville in Jordan Tannahill's DECLARATIONS. Photo: Alejandro Santiago.

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From This Author Taylor Long

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