In the dramatic presentation KATA, we enter the stark space. There are large monitors, left and right. We, the audience, are “investors” there to view four soldiers, examples of ideal men, their bodies stressed to the limit. The four “products” sit, mostly nude, in a circle on the floor. In the next hour, we observe their behavior and how they are driven to physical and mental exhaustion, in various demonstrations of their endurance.
The four young actors are almost constantly in motion, in stylised movement, in military exercises, in physical confrontation. While all this intense activity unfolds, several small interactions may be observed, alliances form, perhaps deeper relationships within the group. One man physically defends another, one shares his water. One man likes to bully anyone who displays any flaw or weakness.
Competition and bonding are male traits or qualities, and they come to the forefront in groups of men, in everything from the Boy Scouts to Navy Seals. The men are even labelled Alpha Man or Beta Male, to designate their likely standing in terms of leadership. KATA asks if this “ideal” human male sustainable? One begins to wonder if any “ideal” of what you are “supposed to be” can be sustained? In fact, is the ideal actually “you” or does it simply mutate into some weird “persona” that is merely a form of slavehood. I short, is any ideal something to be achieved, or is it in reality the ultimate imprisonment?
I could go on, analysing what KATA is supposed to mean or might mean. Instead, I ask you to go see it. It won’t be on long, and you will have to act quickly. Just buy tickets and go. And this is why.
KATA is fascinating to watch. The four male actors are mostly fresh out of school, but they are highly skilled, and they can speak a great deal through a language that is intensely physical. They can communicate a story through their anguished muscles; and the sweat that pours down their faces.
The cast, Anthony Di Feo, Thomas McDevitt, Dylan Shumka-White, and Luke Pieroni are all excellent. I’m sure you will see them in many other shows in the next few years, but you should see them now, in the flesh, because this particular play displays a particular kind of talent. They have almost no spoken lines, costumes, props, set. It is just them, nearly naked, and the bare bones of a stage.
Actors, theatre producers and directors really need to see this show. Even designers. Although the set, lighting, and sound is minimum, it is as efficient and chilling as a laboratory, and it always interesting. This show just works.
Maite Jacobson directs the show brilliantly. Jacobson uses the harshly lit space as a canvas, showing us the emerging conflicts among the men, an arena where their bodies are so extended, their sinews nearly give way, tearing their bodies apart. As a woman, Jacobson stands outside the male psyche, perhaps letting her know how to make it so accessible. I only wish that there had been few more isolated moments of dark intimacy, confusion, smiles or hurt among the men. But overall, it’s hard to forget this performance. My guess is that Maite Jacobson will be a new, and interesting force in Canadian theatre.
Once again, if I can persuade you, please invest time this week and see KATA before it closes. There are only 7 performances left. In Toronto, there are about hundred other shows on right now, but you need to pay special attention to this one, and these new talents. And they actors are in phenomenal shape, mostly naked, so indulge yourself.
Dancemakers, 9 Trinity Street, #313, Distillery District, Toronto
Buy Tickets At:
Theatre Parallax Toronto
Concept, Theatre Parallax Toronto; Maite Jacobson, Director; Evan Sandham, Head Technician; Luke Pieroni, Set Design; Ross Hammond, Sound Design; Chin Palipane, Lighting Design; Andrew Pieroni, Projection Design; Marie-Claude Valiquet, Stage Management; Karen Knox, Publicity; Deadcat Design, Promotional Design; Kenna Jacobs, Assistance Stage Manager.
All photos by Samantha Hurley