Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Transfixed by Louise Moyes

Louise Moyes in her one-woman show Taking in Strangers

Louise Moyes could recite the alphabet and stroke her arms through the air like a swimmer and I would watch transfixed.  She is simply that engaging as a performer.

What Louise does is called docudance.  It is a hybrid form of storytelling and movement.  It is usually rhythmic but rarely involves music.  And she is a master (oh dear is that the patriarchy showing?) at it.

Last night I had the distinct and memorable pleasure of attending Moyes' opening of Taking in Strangers.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I will say that I am a native Montrealer who has lived in St. John's since 1994.  Louise Moyes' narrative involved the similarity between Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador culture.  So, as far I as concerned, she was preaching to the converted. 

When I first moved here the cod moratorium was still relatively fresh.  There was much talk of the relationship between this province and the country.  Should we have joined?  What did we get?  Was it worth it?  For someone who had come of age during the FLQ crisis and Quebec sovereignty this had an oddly familiar ring.  I understood intimately the talk about independence.  I knew that culturally speaking I was in a sister state. 

Louise Moyes touches on these topics in her production, in which she traces her personal travels between Montreal and St. John's over a period of 15 years.  The personality of Marilyn is the touchstone.  She is a woman with platform boots, and never a root problem (reference to hair colour).  Louise and Marilyn mirror each other.  They both travel between the provinces exploring and experiencing in their own particular way.  Many of us in St. John's will remember Marilyn as a real life character, who passed away recently.  And we miss her unmistakable style.

But there are many characters in Taking in Strangers–not so much people (although there are several)- but audibles like the ingressive breath and the aspirant h.  For the ingressive think "any mummers 'lowed in".  And for the aspirant h think how you might spell Harry: H, Ha, Hr, Hr, Y.  Things put in and things left out.  That's part of what Louise explores.  How people talk and what it says about them.  She brings it all to life with a potent combination of staging, plot and large doses of herself.

So, think lots of Newfoundland outport colour and character.  And a certain amount of Montreal, as in Leonard Cohen.  Sprinkle in a bit of Labrador.  By the way, growing up in Montreal, I thought Labrador was a part of Quebec.  The Inuit played cards with my dad on trips into town.  And they never told me otherwise.  But wait, that could be because Labrador belonged to them…anyhow, for fun and profit go see Louise Moyes in Taking in Strangers.  You won't be disappointed. 

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