dying in reverse

6 Feb

Theatre is supposed to be in the present tense, though always in struggle with others. After watching all these Forced Entertainment performances, both live and recorded, I have the peculiar and mournful feeling of having fast-forwarded through lives I didn’t live. Because I saw Quizoola and Exquisite Pain in Vancouver, the performers there (Robin and Cathy) first appeared to me as their forty-something selves. Now, as if the past were out-takes of the present, I’ve been watching their younger and younger selves perform. I feel like some kind of time vampire, perched evilly at the screen, as if it is my attention that is creasing their time-lines — but of course this is dumb hubris.

There’s a famous passage in Kurt Vonnegut’s Schlachthaus 5 where the slaughter scenes of WWI (or 2?) play backwards. Soldiers rise miraculously from the dreadful piles of their own death. Bullets fly backwards, leaving their bodies. Blood returns, wounds seal, they walk backwards away from their deaths and back into their trenches, averting war. Yet I wonder if they are in any way “the same” on their return from this decomposition. Is it as if they had never been dead? I don’t think so.

Because I have now seen so many other deaths of these performers, and lives, and moments folded and re-folded and revised, I feel as though what I saw in performance is only just happening to me. There is a sense in which being there always happens afterwards.


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