JWR Articles: Live Event - Bliss (Director: Joe Hill-Gibbins) - April 9, 2008
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Bliss

3.5 3.5

Isabelle Through the Looking Glass

Olivier Choinière’s big box theatre piece—seen through the looking glass, the other side of which is a Wal-Mart staffroom—takes its time making the sale but the rollback savings as the, at times, complex storylines are further reduced to their emotional roots make this work a bargain at twice the price.

Caryl Churchill’s recent translation (which opened recently in London, directed with compact surety by Joe Hill-Gibbins) most certainly broadens the range of potential co-workers taking in the show (all audience members are required to don a compact vest replete with employee badge during the 80-minute pitch for taking responsibility for your own life) but a couple of accents and a wee bit of commercial trivia, if slipped in, might add an extra measure of verisimilitude.

First, the accents. Why do we hear “Renay” (for René) but “Celeen” instead of “Saylin?” CNN et al may have forever purged the French pronunciation from our ears, but to have one but not the other (especially given they are husband and wife) rings as false as Ed Sullivan’s attempts in a foreign language. Même chose pour “Québec.” Yikes! Let’s not do anything that might offend one of the financial backers. Imagine saying “Lewtenant!”

In the cashier checkout scene, we learn “Credit card—doesn’t work: wrong PIN number put in when, in most countries, it’s a debit card that obliges the customer to punch in the secret code to pay in stores or shops; for credit, a scrawled signature is required to seal the deal. Lost in translation or merely a typo? In this day and age of the prevalence of plastic over cash (except in the black market and sex trade) details like these are known to virtually every member of the staff, er, audience.

Enough said. On to the show.

Four actors, speaking their frequently overcut, interplayed lines in, primarily, a stand-and-deliver fashion weave together a truly fantastic fabric that begins with the magical realm of celebrity then morphs and dissolves into the dank, spineless world of despair.

The glue of this far-reaching study of unwavering idol worship as real life proves too much to bear, is Oracle. Hayley Carmichael digs deep into the challenging role, keeps the pace moving forward—particularly in her extended speeches/reportage of the gradually horrifying events—and convincingly stares down many patrons on the other side of the glass with welcome-to-my-world looks of recognition that take no prisoners.

Display Assistant, Justin Salinger (perhaps a bit long in the tooth to bring boyish naïveté when required, but, nonetheless, puts his subtle, yet wide range of emotions and styles into the service of the script), sails through his part with aplomb.

Not quite as consistent are Cosmetic Salesperson (Bríd Brennan, saddled with the rare off-key line “One day she’ll suck cocks”) and Manager (Neil Dudgeon is well meaning and gruff when required but occasionally slips into “hesitatos” that pull back the overall momentum).

Of course, the star of it all is the unseen, yet very present Isabelle, whose trials, tribulations and terror make easy understanding of the old adage, ignorance is bliss. JWR

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