Truth, Lies, Shadows, and Ducks – Exploring The Wild Duck Project with Re:Current Theatre
by Bailey Green
Is it possible to live your life without telling a single lie? This question is at the heart of Re:Current Theatre’s The Wild Duck Project. The piece is an exploration of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck and marries personal testimony, adaptation, shadow puppetry and movement to explore this complex play.
Artistic Director and co-founder of Re:Current Theatre Brian Postalian has led his cast of four actors—co-founders Victor Pokinko and Eliza Martin, and contributing artists Alex Spyropoulos and Zachary Murphy—through a rigorous rehearsal process. Postalian (along with Martin, Pokinko and Spyropoulos) are graduates of the University of Toronto and Sheridan College joint actor training program – Theatre and Drama Studies.
Postalian’s approach to The Wild Duck uses a combination of academic questioning and organic exploration. He chose to focus on the thematic elements of flawed ideals and obscured truths that pervade the familial relationships at the centre of the play. Postalian notes how in many of Ibsen’s plays, such as An Enemy of the People, the playwright focuses on the effects of revealing the truth:
“At the top of the play, the poorer family lives with all these concealments. Nothing is obviously wrong but there are a lot of secrets. So the son [Gregers] from the rich family comes home and decides to reveal all of this information. I really believe he is Ibsen’s mouthpiece, though in the play he can sound like quite the villain, because he [like Ibsen] believes living in absolute truth is where we need to be. But Ibsen complicates this further because society won’t let us do that, because society is built on lies. So what ends up happening is the daughter [Hedvig] of the poor family kills herself as sort of the ultimate choice. […] In The Wild Duck, in particular, we see how in knowing the truth, things fall apart.”
The Wild Duck Project has had several incarnations since 2014 when Re:Current Theatre first took shape. While studying in theatre school together, Martin, Pokinko and Postalian decided that they wanted to form a company to explore the re-interpretation of classical texts. The Wild Duck had its first workshop performance in the MIST theatre in Mississauga. It was there that a key element of its design emerged: lamps, held by the actors, are used to light the majority of the production. “The actors have agency and control, which has been exciting and challenging to explore,” says Postalian.
When asked about how the project stands today at its current stage, Postalian responds, “There’s a lot of problems in the play itself that we’re still trying to navigate. And even sequences that we have in the play that may be problematic. We’re taking a risk by trying it, but I know that there’s a kernel burning in each scene.” He mentions as well that many persistent problems have lead to new discoveries that drive the piece forward.
When asked about the challenges of directing this piece, Postalian says that finding clarity has been essential. Ensuring that the audience can grab on to the story has been very important to the creators as this play may not be well known to potential audience members. Finding clarity for the actors, who are also co-creators, has also been a challenge. The greatest joy for Postalian has come from watching his cast play with free abandon. “It’s so invigorating to see them go off and find something I could never have found,” Postalian says.
When asked to describe The Wild Duck Project in 5 words, Postalian responds, “Lamps, shadow puppets, Fleetwood Mac, whimsy, ducks.”
The Wild Duck Project plays at Hub14 until December 13th, Wed-Sun at 8pm.
Reality, Idealism, Fantasy.
Can we live our lives without telling a single lie?
Wild Duck Project is a new contemporary adaptation, reimagining, and deconstruction from Henrik Ibsen’s cynical play ‘The Wild Duck’.
In the Wild Duck Project, four actors have gathered to tell the story of The Wild Duck. In the process, they take apart the play and find an uneasy resemblance with their own lives. Through their reimagining of the play, they discover that truth is dead and lies are our sustenance. If they choose to follow the ideals of truth over a life of lies, are they noble or foolish? Each night, they invite an audience to answer this with them and discover why lies are not only useful but necessary to life.
Lit entirely by the actors using four lamps and a set of flashlights, the performance is a mash-up of text from the play, personal testimonials from the performers, remixed classic pop and folks songs, and shadow puppetry. The project asks whether or not human beings can live their lives without telling a single lie.
Wild Duck Project asks if it is truly possible to live free and truthful, and if not, is it so bad to be false?
Director: Brian Postalian
Cast: Eliza Martin, Zachary Murphy, Victor Pokinko, and Alex Spyropoulos
Production Designer: Joe Pagnan
Associate Designer: Holly Meyer-Dymny
Costume Designer: Laura Delchiaro
Producer: Michelle Yagi
Stage Management: Heather Bellingham
Dramaturgy: Adrian Beattie
Artistic Outreach Coordinator: Cornelia Audrey
Poster Design: Jacek Kociolek
Bailey Green: @_BaileyGreen
In the Greenroom: @intheGreenRoom_