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Courtesy Dean Mullin

Experimental theatre group reimagine’s Brecht’s Elephant Calf for modern day

By Gurman Sahota, November 22 —

Following in its tradition of experimental theatre, Theatre Enounter will present The Elephant Calf by Bertoit Brecht. Originally set in British colonial India, Theatre Encounter’s production of the play will take place in the present day.

The narrative follows a group of actors who perform with an ulterior motive — getting as much money from the audience as they can.

The script is a commentary on Brecht’s previous work, Man Equals Man.

Director and producer Val Duncan says the play poses questions about truth and identity.

“[The play] deals with this notion of truth and identity and particularly in light of recent events of the United States presidential election and this notion that we’re living in this sort of post-truth politick right now,” Duncan says. “It questions this notion of the difference between truth and proof — is truth more important than the way that we feel about something? Is truth more important than status? Is truth more important than identity?”

Duncan says Brecht’s work has recently reemerged in the current political climate.

“[Brecht’s] style of work leads to a chaotic and dangerous time and a lot of us are feeling that way in this moment of history as well. We have really have tried to speak to that in this script in terms of design and in terms of our approach to it,” Duncan says.

Now in its ninth season, Theatre Encounter was founded by U of C alumni Michael Fenton and Mike Unrau. Duncan says that Brecht’s work encapsulates the company’s mandate on doing experimental interpretations of classic texts.

“[Brecht’s] approach is based in expressionism — this idea that performers on stage don’t have secrets from the audience, everything is in the open. The type of work we typically err towards is physical. So expressionism really falls into that wheelhouse quite easily,” Duncan says. “This notion in saying things with the body instead of saying things to an audience — the work tends to be really physical, really high energy and includes a lot of different disciplines across the table.”

Duncan says the vigorous rehearsal process took over three months.

“When you do collaborative creation you need a lot of time for things to percolate,” Duncan says. “A lot of time building an ensemble and building that chemistry that you get among performers who have spent a lot of time working together which is really important. It’s a really big contributor to a great show whether or not that ensemble works as a unit.”

Duncan says that audiences will get a unique glance at experimental theatre during the hour-long performance.

“It’s definitely not your typical night at the theatre. This show is wild — it is wickedly funny. It is just jam-packed, I think that audiences who are ready to come in and really experience something will really enjoy it,” she says. “It’s not the kind of theatre where you can sit back and just watch. You’re in it, you’re engaged, it’s immersive.”

The Elephant Calf runs from Nov. 30 – Dec. 10 at the Motel Theatre at Arts Commons. Student tickets are $20. There will be a pay-what-you-can preview on Nov. 29.

For more information, visit theatreencounter.com


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