HOT EVENTS MGT MAGAZINE VISITING ARCHIVE MGT PARTNERS MGT TEAM
Declarations: Jordan Tannahill's struggle with grief- Drew Rowsome - MyGayToronto

Declarations: Jordan Tannahill's struggle with grief
26 January 2018

by Drew Rowsome
- Photos by Alejandro Santiago

Grief is a sate of being we all share at some point in our lives. While the common parlance is that grief adheres to Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's seven stages, those stages are different for everyone. Instead of progressing logically through the seven stages, most people cycle wildly, often repetitively, through the first six before, if they are lucky, reaching the seventh, the stage of acceptance.

While Declarations doesn't follow or acknowledge any such sort of structure, it dives into each stage before restlessly moving on to another. Bounces from one to another in search of meaning and that state of acceptance. Acceptance or any other emotion that will give some comfort or resolution. Declarations is not theatre - notably the program notes and press materials refer to writer/director Jordan Tannahill (Botticelli in the Fire and Sunday in SodomConcord FloralLate CompanyThe MagicPost Eden) as a multi-disciplinary artist - but more performance art, an attempt to process the inexpressible.

Liz Peterson (Flashing Lights) enters the squared off, deliberately distancing, floor space and reads a series of declarations from a teleprompter, all of which being with "This is . . ." The declarations include objects, feelings, visuals, events, states of mind, and a few satirical jabs at contemporary culture. Each declaration is accompanied by a gesture or a short dance move. Some are illustrative, some are literal, some tangential, some satirical, and some inexplicable but fraught with meaning. For those who have read the program notes or Tannahill's novel Liminal, there is a thread, but a search for meaning or connections between the phrases is hard to decipher. Some of the phrases link, usually in groups of three, but that appears to be as random an occurrence as the other declarations.

By surrendering to the words as concrete poetry, it washed over me with phrases and ideas creating associations or emotions, some powerful and some mundane. Peterson is joined by the statuesque and magnetic Jennifer Dahl, and they work in tandem, against each other, in unison or alone. The words and gestures build in energy but not in coherence. Philip Nozuka (Banana Boys) and Danielle Baskerville join in and the duet/not-duet becomes a quartet. Again it builds. Builds to a self-referential and welcome comic effect before Robert Abuto, prone to violent falls, joins in. The quintet becomes dissonant as they talk over each other, interact, compete, remain self-absorbed and occasionally function as a chorus.

The declarations become longer and more elusive and intriguing. "This is Sylvia Plath's oven." "This is a customer representative." "This is my best side." "This is a box of elephant tusks." "This is a fetish." There is a pure movement interlude, a sung counterpoint driving home that this might be a piece of music, and a final short monologue from Peterson that attempts to tie everything together. My expectations and need for catharsis was not met, but that may have been the point: we have been inside Tannahill's mind as he struggles - by confronting, by distracting, by pondering, by raging, by avoiding - with his emotions surrounding his mother's fatal cancer diagnosis. And there is no catharsis or explanation, there is just grief and the necessity of continuing on.

As an experiment in plumbing a state of mind, Declarations is successful on its own terms, but as a piece of theatre it feels like a creation still struggling to find its form. Which, as performance art or a musical piece, makes it a complete success: the presented object and process being the art, a shortcut to the emotions. As theatre it defies expectations, which can be exhilarating or frustrating, reactions that were in abundance throughout the restless theatre. As the gestures are improvised (within limits I suspect) each night will be different and the dedicated and emotionally communicative performers can only grow in their roles and connection, the Declarations that the next audience sees will be quite different. And when Tannahill, or another director, remounts Declarations, it may open up into an experience more inclusive and less self-absorbed intellectual. There is a clever, heartfelt statement and emotional cry buried in Declarations and that I can't wait to see.

Declarations continues until Sun, Feb 11 at Berkeley Street Theatre, 26 Berkeley St. canadianstage.com

RELATED ARTICLES / ARCHIVE:
- Review: Mr Truth: I do find this erotic - Apr '18
- Review: Fun Home - Apr '18
- Review: Love and Information - Apr '18
- Review: Category E - Apr '18
- Review: What a Young Wife Ought to Know - Mar '18
- Review: I Cook, He Does the Dishes - Mar '18
- Review: The Monument - Mar '18
- Review: Animal Farm: a bitter theatrical feast - Mar '18
- Review: Bunny: battling sexual repression with comedy - Mar '18
- Review: After Wrestling: an exuberant loopy comedy about death - Mar '18
- Review: No Foreigners - Feb '18
- Review: Hello Again: sex and lust and song and dance - Feb '18
- Review: LOST in TRANS - Feb '18
- Review: Acha Bacha - Feb '18
- Review: Bang Bang: a darkly comic attack on appropriation - Feb '18
- Review: Declarations: Jordan Tannahill's struggle with grief - Jan '18
- Review: The Crucible: a classical text with contemporary ramifications - Jan '18
- Review: Bears: a blunt message beautifully and powerfully delivered - Jan '18
- Review: Hamlet - Jan '18
- Review: The Wedding Party - Jan '18
- Review: Mustard - Jan '18
- Review: The Lorax: amping up theatrical magic and song and dance to deliver a blunt parable - Dec '17
- Review: Peter Pan: Bad Hats Theatre can fly. And multi-task. - Dec '17
- Review: A Christmas Carol: not even a Scrooge could resist - Dec '17
- Review: House Guests - Nov '17
- Review: 5 Guys Chillin' - Nov '17
- Review: Triptyque: choreographing the circus - Nov '17
- Review: The 29th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - Nov '17
- Review: Grease: "It's got groove it's got meaning" - Nov '17
- Review: The Goat or, Who is Sylvia? Edward Albee's provocation gets a stellar subversive production - Nov '17
- Review: Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools and the artistic struggle of cultural connection - Oct '17
- Review: Bat Out of Hell: a spectacular guilty pleasure with leather lungs - Oct - '17
- Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: metaphor made into theatrical magic - Oct '17
- Review: Flashing Lights: fable and art - Oct '17
- Review: Undercover - Sep '17
- Review: North by Northwest: a giddy delirious thriller - Sep '17
- Review: Turtleneck: sex, violence, porn and red hot hilarity - Sep - '17
- Review: Hedwig and the Angry Inch: escaping the dungeon of gender, Hart House and rock n roll - Sep '17
- Review: The Seat Next to the King: gay interracial sex is more powerful than fear - Sep '17
- Review: Volta: the magic of the circus thrives - Sep '17
- Review: Pippi - Aug - '17
- Review: Permanence - Jul '17
- Review: King Lear - Jul '17
- Review: Cavalia - Jul '17
- Review: Beautiful - Jul - '17
- Review: 8 Morro & Jasp In Stupefaction - Jun '17
- Review: The Lavender Railroad - Jun '17
- Review: Showstopper - Jun - '17
- Review: Youth/Elder Project- Jun '17
- Review: Situational Anarchy- May '17
- Review: It's All Tru!- May - '17
- Review: The Return (il ritorno): Circa ...- May '17
- Review: Midsummer (a play with songs)...- May '17
- Review: Prince Hamlet - Apr '17
- Review: 887: memory becomes extraordinary - Apr '17
- Review: Little Pretty and The Exceptionals - Apr '17
- Review: Jack Charles v The Crown - Apr '17
- Review: A Kiss with a vicious bite - Mar '17
- Review: Souzatzka - Mar '17
- Review: Mrs Henderson Presents - Mar '17
- Review: Blood Weddings - Mar '17
- Review: Book Of Mormon - Mar '17
- Review: Cirkopolis - Mar '17
- Review: The Bodyguard - Feb '17
- Review: Five Faces for Evelyn Frost - Feb '17
- Review: My Night with Reg - Feb '17
- Review: Blue Remembered Hills - Feb '17
- The 38th Rhubarb Festival - Feb '17
- Review: James and the Giant Peach - Feb '17
- Review: Carrie - Jan '17
- Review: Audience - Jan '17
- Review: Sisters Act - Dec '16
- Review: Who Killed Spalding Gray? - Dec '16
- Review: Swan - Nov '16
- Review: Cuisine & Confessions - Nov '16
- Review: The (Post) Mistress - Oct '16
- Review: The Circle: the kids are not alright - Oct '16
- Review: Birdtown and Swanville - Oct '16
- Review: Late Night - Oct '16
- Review: Concord Floral - Oct '16
- Review: Blind Date - Sep '16
- Review: Pearle Harbour - Sep '16
- Review: West Side Story - Aug '16
- Review: Chippendales - Aug '16
- Review: Mr Shi and His Lover - Aug '16
- Review: Tomorrow's Child, NO FUN - Aug '16
- Review: Thank You For Being A Friend - Aug '16
- Review: Luzia - Jul '16
- Review: Peter and the Starcatcher - Jul '16
- Review: Shakespeare in High Park II - Jul '16
- Review: Shakespeare in High Park I - Jul '16
- Review: Bright Lights - Jul '16
- Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat - Jun '16
- Review: Forever Plaid - May '16
- Review: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder - May '16
- Review: The Closet - May '16
- Review: Mousetrap - May '16
- Review: Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom - May '16
- Review: Anne of Green Gables - Apr '16
- Review: Scarberia - Apr '16
- Review: If-Then - Apr '16
- Review: The Wizard of Oz - Apr '16
- Review: The Terrible Parents - Apr '16
- Review: The Judas Kiss - Mar '16
- Review: The Crackwalker - Mar '16
- Review: No Strings (Attached) - Mar '16
- Review: Gertrude and Alice - Mar '16
- Review: Line In Sand - Mar '16
- Review: Boeing Boeing - Feb '16
- Review: Salt-Water Moon - Feb '16
- Review: Contempt - Feb '16
- Review: Anything Goes - Feb '16
- Review: Mustard - Feb '16
- Review: Into The Woods - Jan '16
- Review: Heart Of Steal - Jan '16
- Review: Toruk - Jan '16
- Review: The Gay Heritage Project - Jan '16
- Review: Elizabeth - Darcy - Dec '15
- Review: Peter Pan in Wonderland - Dec '15
- Review: Cinderella - Dec '15
- Review: Mombay Black - Nov '15
- Review: Paradise Lost - Nov '15
- Review: Wormwood - Nov '15
- Review: Banana Boys - Nov '15
- Review: Legally Blonde - Oct '15
- Review: The Baby - Oct '15
- Review: An Enemy of the People - Oct '15
- Review: They Say He Fell - Oct '15
- Review: Buddy Holly - Oct '15
- Review: Seance - Sep '15
- Review: Like A Generation - Sep '15
- Review: 20th November - Sep '15
- Review: Empire - Sep '15
- Review: Big Plans - Sep '15
- Review: The Marquise of O - Aug '15
- Review: An Evening in July - Aug '15
- Review: Love + Hate - Aug '15
- Review: MacArthur Park Suite - Aug '15
- Review: Obeah - Aug '15
- Review: Mary Poppins - Jul '15
- Review: Julius Caesar... - Jul '15
- Review: Gimme Shelter - Jul '15
- Review: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jul '15
- Review: Superhero - Jul '15
- Review: Kinki Boots - Jul '15
- Review: First Time Last Time - Jun '15
- Review: The Love Crimes of Frances Lark - Jun '15
- Review: Ballad of the Burning Star - May '15
- Review: Mr Burns - May '15
- Review: Morro and Jasp - May '15
- Review: American Idiot - May '15
- Review: Liver - May '15
- Review: Sweeney Todd - May '15
- Review: Tom at the Farm - Apr '15
- Review: Ubu and the Truth Commission - Apr '15
- Review: HairSpray - Apr '15
- Nature of the Beast purrs and bites - Mar '15
- Review: The Daisy Theatre - Mar '15
- Review: Dinner with Casey - Mar '15
- Review: Cake and Dirt - Mar '15
- Review: Faulty Towers - Mar '15
- Review: Brain Food - Mar '15
- Cake and Dirt - Mar '15
- This is for You, Anna - Mar '15
- Cannibal - Feb '15
- Spring Awakening is on the verge of blossoming - Feb '15
- Jesus Christ Superstar / Heart House - Jan '15
- Waiting Room - Jan '15
- Review: Jesus Christ Superstar - Dec '14
- Sharron and George’s Christmas Sing-A-Long - Dec '14
- Jesus Christ Superstar - Dec '14
- Review: A Christmas Carol - Dec '14
- Review: Cinderella - Nov '14
- Review: Metropolitan Operas - Nov '14
- Review: Sextet - Nov '14
- Review: Opus - Nov '14
- Review: Take Me Back To Jefferson - Nov '14
- Review: Evil Dead - Nov '14
- Review: The Art of Building a Bunker - Oct '14
- Review: Brotherhood - Oct '14
- Review: Femme Playlist - Oct '14
- The Hip Hopera - Oct '14
- Review: The Importance of Being Earnest- Sep '14
- Review: Freda And Jem- Sep '14
- Review: Hedwig- Sep '14
- Hair - Sep '14
- Summerworks - Aug '14
- Queers Bathroom Stories - Jun '14
- SpeakEasy - Jun '14
- Sharron Matthews and Gavin Crawford... - May '14
- Hackerlove & The Mystery of Edwin Drood - May '14
- Review: Headwig - May '14
- Headwig - Apr '14
- Review: Sound Of Music - Apr '14
- Review: Cock - Apr '14
- Review: 50 Shades - Apr '14
- Review: Me Talking to Myself...- Mar '14
- Review: Elegies - Mar '14
- Review: Marry Me a Little - Mar '14
- Review: Goodnight Desdemona... - Mar '14
- Review: A Beautiful View - Mar '14
- Review: Same Same but Different - Feb '14
- Review: Shrew - Feb '14
- Review: Genesis & Other - Feb '14
- Firebrand: When history burns - Feb '14
- Review: Heartbeat of Home - Feb '14
- Review: Cabaret - Feb '14
- Review: London Road - Jan '14
- Review: Once Upon This Island - Jan '14
- Review: The Way Back to Thursday - Jan '14
- Review: Manon, Sandra... - Jan '14
- Wedding Singer - Jan '14
- Manon, Sandra and the Virgin Mary - Jan '14
- Little Shop of Horrors - Dec '13
- Fear of commitment, but... - Dec '13
- A big splash of holiday cheer - Nov '13
- Needles And Opium - Nov '13
- Gay Heritage Project - Nov '13
- There Is No Lock... - Nov '13
- Sensual thrills in the dark - Nov '13
- No safe word - Nov '13
- Demoniacally delightful song and dance and gore - Nov '13
- Vampires, Judaism and wicked fun with grief - Oct '13
- We all love Lucy - Oct '13
- Freak Flags Conquer - Oct '13
- A Visitation from Aphrodite - Oct '13
- A Comic Tail of Staggering Genius - Sep '13
- We're All Pigs - Sep '13
- Abnormally intimate - Sep '13
- Men Behind Bars - Sep '13
- Lighting up the dark - Aug '13
- Double duty, a foursome and puppets - Aug '13
- Upton Abbey - Aug '13
- Sunny with 100 chance of puppets - Jul '13
- Review: Macbeth at Shakespeare in High Park - Jul '13
- Review: Class Dismissed - Jul '13
- Review: Avenue Q - Jul '13
- Review: Cats - Jun '13
- Review: Happiness returns - May '13
- Review: The Bone House - May '13
- Review: Of a Monstrous Child - May '13
- Stopheart - May '13
- Of a Monstrous Child - Apr '13
- Race - Mar '13
- Dancing With Rage - Mar '13
- Romeo and Juliet - Feb '13
- 35th RHUBARB & Japanese high-tech theatre - Jan '13
- Wizard Of Oz - Dec '12
- Tchaikovsky Spectacular - Nov '12
- La Cage Aux Folles - Oct '12
- Pilitical Mother - Sep '12
- Midsummer Night's Dream - Aug '12
- Fringe Festival - Jul '12
- Festival For Community - Jun '12
- Cavalia Odysseo - May '12
- Amy & Freddy - May '12
- The Game of Love and Chance - Apr '12
- My Granny The GoldFish - Mar '12
- Zeo Hour - Mar '12
- 33rd Rhubarb Festival - Feb '12
- Cabaret - Jan '12
- American Idiot - Jan '12
- The Nutcracker - Dec '11
- Mary Poppins - Nov '11
- Romeo And Juliet - Nov '11
- The Normal Heart - Oct '11
- Another Africa - Sep '11
- Singing Strong & The Maids - Aug '11
- The Glass Menagerie - Jul '11
- Operation Impervious - Jul '11
- Toronto Jazz Festival - Jun '11
- TRIGGER Festival - Jun '11
- Jesus Christ Superstar - Jun '11
- TIGTROPHE - May '11
- AGOKWE - Apr '11
- The Best Man - Mar '11
- SPIN - Mar '11
- Billy Elliot - Jan '11