Clara Furey has art in her veins

We spoke to the dancer/actress about her current show at Théâtre La Chapelle and her role in Guy Maddin’s film The Forbidden Room.


Clara Furey

Clara Furey

Clara Furey explodes onto the screen in Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson’s new, landmark film achievement, The Forbidden Room. The actress — daughter of film icon Carole Laure and 1970s polymath musician and actor Lewis Furey — is an icon in the making, perhaps on the cusp of becoming a household name.

Think of the youthful, rebellious feel of the photos of Ryan McGinley, the dim, dark evocations of a contemporary Frida Kahlo and the half-moon eyes of the silent film star Clara Bow. Clara Furey is trailblazing a generation of artists (like Emmanuel Schwartz) with little regard for the walls between artistic disciplines. Remember her name!

I interviewed Clara Furey about her new dance performance/play with Peter Jasko at Théâtre La Chapelle, Untied Tales (The Vanished Power of the Usual Reign).

Untied Tales 01 Marlène Gélineau Payette

From Untied Tales. Photo by Marlène Gélineau Payette

James Oscar: The title is beautiful, poetic and evokes a piece of theatre with a trajectory that is poetic, political and social. Can we assume that from the title? One can imagine you are referring to forms of domination and power relations — does this idea of the “vanished power” imply a revolution, a transgression of the “usual” forms of domination?

Clara Furey: The part of the title in parentheses you are talking about is taken from a T.S. Eliot poem, Ash Wednesday. That poem was one of the initial inspirations for the piece and, to me, that line in the poem means a reversal of the usual domination and power patterns, or simply a new world. It’s “Untied Tales” because we were inspired by a novel written by Louise Murphy, The True Story of Hansel and Gretel: A Story About War and Survival. We liked the image of two kids lost in the forest in the night, but in a very abstract way. However, as Murphy rewrote the tale in a very personal way, taking the feminist point of view of Magda, the witch of the tale, we went so far away from any original tale that we called it Untied Tales.

JO: What essentially will you be presenting in this piece?

CF: This piece lives around the principle that what the eyes don’t see still exists. It’s a piece where we’ve stripped down layers and layers of wild distress. This piece, like an onion, is a simple yet very dense object, where the sound is sensorial and the lights revealing what it chooses—when it chooses. Another quote that we found very useful to imagine the set of the piece was one of Rumi’s: “The Absolute works with nothing. The workshop, the materials are what does not exist.”

JO: Can you elaborate on this your description of the piece as hallucinogenic?

CF: What I meant by a hallucinogenic world is just that. All that you can imagine in your head when you don’t quite see where you are, where you hear many things you can’t see, just like in the forest in pitch dark. That creative state where you invent a world. The darkness then becomes something, that unifier that is a producer of brain imagery and of sensations.

JO: And this “sentiment d’urgence” or “state of emergency” in your description — we all still seem to never react to the very urgency that is present in our lives. The philosopher Walter Benjamin spoke about the “state of emergency” as what could be a motivator to change our social conditions, but have we not become more lazy in the face of the “sentiment d’urgence?” Are we asleep?

CF: Yes we might be asleep. Way too much. The best example is how slowly the system reacts to the accusations of Native women all across Canada, and especially now in Val d’Or — I mean, how it’s been for many years. And how we are all as humans dealing with the refugee situation right now in Europe. I cannot in any way say that my work is helping the world to wake up, but all of this passes through us, and the work is coloured by it.

JO: How does Untied Tales it fit into La Chapelle’s Scènes Contemporaines dance/theatre series?

CF: The show demands a dive of the audience (laughs). That’s all. And it is not necessarily mainstream, but I still think it could speak to quite a wide audience.

JO:  Can you speak about your work process with Peter Jasko?

CF: Working with Peter has been really amazing. He is a true researcher of the movement, of how to move people through the movement. He is highly talented, so it is great to share time and space with someone and share the things that have been interesting us in the last years. We come from quite different practices, which is why it’s so nice to share this creation. We have in common the passion for the work we do, and musicality, I would say.


Clara Furey in The Forbidden Room

JO: The Forbidden Room — wow — holy moly! Do you have any comment on your role and participation in that film and how that might relate to any of your work afterwards like Untied Tales?

CF: Guy Maddin cast me a bit as his witch in the movie. It is an archetype that I love to look at, the wild woman archetype so well described by Clarissa Pinkola in The Woman Who Runs With the Wolves. It crosses the piece I am doing now sometimes.

JO: What kind of wisdom have your artists parents passed along to you?

CF: Of course, I owe a lot to my parents in the way that they opened my mind at a young age to art and very open views of life. I also studied music with my father, so all that is from them.

Clara Furey and Peter Jasko appear in Untied Tales (The Vanished Power of the Usual Reign) at Théâtre La Chapelle (3700 St-Dominique) from Oct. 27–31 , 8 p.m., $29/$25 under 30