Highlights from the OFFTA fest

Highlights from this year’s OFFTA festival of theatre, dance and performing arts.

Détruire. Photo by Dominic Barthiaume.

Newton’s Law of the Arts: for every festival, there is an equal and opposite festival. The FTA snags international talent and sells out its top shows; its nemesis OFFTA arrives neck in neck with its own roster of dance, theatre and arts performances by a more local crowd. Like the FTA, most of the events are just two night stands.

First up, OFFTA is kidnapping a busload of festivalgoers and taking them out of town for a doubleheader in a football field. The lucky riders catch Philippe Boutin’s Détruire, Nous Allons, a dance theatre doomed love story, and a performance by the politically savvy zombie-burlesque troupe Les Fermières Obsédées. Their latest, Bonbon/Candy, challenges conventional female stereotypes using …  soda?

OFFTA is a strange beast and difficult to characterize, with shows that often cross performance genres. For example, Jacques Poulin DenisDors is described as a portrait of sleep, dreams and the night, resting somewhere between dance, immersive theatre and a “happening.” Philip Bussmann’s Memoirs of a Pole Dancer is a video installation, dance performance and narration, while Adam Kinner’s I’m Faking It combines dance, theatre and performance art in its exploration of sexuality.

Even performances that bear “conventional” labels are deceptive. Dance performances stretch boundaries, utilizing different media and methods as enhancements. In Why are dogs successful on stage?, Maria Kefirova makes use of live video feed. Mixoff combines the talents of choreographer Marie Béland and stage director Olivier Choinière to create an artistic work of unknown outcome, and Tuesday night’s Trib’Impro squares off teams of dancers and choreographers in an improv competition of verbal sparring mediated by a dance facilitator.

On the whole, OFFTA leans toward the experimental. In particular, Angela Konrad’s “punk operetta” What Bloody Man is That? (in French) takes on Macbeth and adds a pinch of Freud. Generally speaking, Shakespearian retellings tend to err on the side of interesting, if only because the premises are time-tested. In this production, the scheming couple fails to profit from their new power. Songs are punctuated by psychoanalytic therapeutic sessions.

Nini Bélanger’s Quelqu’un va venir (in French) looks at a couple whose attempt to isolate themselves for some “alone time” fails when a man arrives at their new house. For those who prefer less straight up theatre, Nous ne serons pas vieux, mais déjà gras de vivre is a theatre/audio performance by the two person company L’eau du bain. They create machines and set up new rules for each performance that are used to generate audio and spatial environments.

Questioning your definition of performance might open your eyes to a whole new reality or leave you spent and confused. Either way, there’s a chance to explore the depths of your existential grief at OFFTA’s Confessional. An hour before the nightly performances at Théâtre d’Aujourd’hui, a rotating cast of philosophers are available to probe questions that have been plaguing you since you read a few essays from the coursepack of your Philosophy/Ethics class. ■

OFFTA takes place in multiple venues, May 24 – June 2. Ticket prices vary.

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