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Machina Nuptialis


At the Casa Loma Stables

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In Toronto on Tuesday

Corpus is throwing the biggest wedding in town. In fact, there are three weddings taking place simultaneously.

The Toronto-based dance-theatre company that is usually touring the world has returned to its home base to premiere Machina Nuptialis, conceived and directed by artistic director David Danzon.While not as rich in satire and subtext as other Corpus offerings, this show about weddings, subtitled A Whirlwind of Brides and Grooms, is still a lot of fun.

The venue is the carriage house in the stables complex of Casa Loma. Corpus has created a theatre in the round with chairs lining the walls.

In the centre is set designer Jacques Fortier's orange and black kiosk creation. The six-sided wooden structure with 12 narrow doors is reminiscent of a European circus. There are platforms outside the doors, and hatches in the roof that open up from the inside.

The kiosk also rotates in a circle, courtesy of Danzon. Dressed as a French workman from an earlier age, in cap, vest and rolled shirtsleeves, Danzon uses a retractable lever to push the kiosk around. Overhead is lighting designer Kimberley Purtell's huge chandelier made up of swaged lines of bulbs that cover the entire ceiling.

We first meet the brides and grooms as they step out of the kiosk doors, brides first (Monica Dottor, Amy Hampton and Emily Poirier) in costume designer Gulay Cokgezen's short white taffeta dresses. The grooms in tails (Indrit Kasapi, Andrew Robinson and Timothy Spronk) are holding the long veils.

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And so the weddings begin. In the following hour, the couples get married, switch partners, kiss, dance, fight, and make up, not to mention strip off their clothes as honeymoon hormones rage.

There is also audience participation galore. We are, after all, the friends and relations who dance at the wedding, pose for pictures with the happy couples, drink wine, clink our glasses to make the brides and grooms kiss, give gifts and receive favours (candied almonds).

Corpus is known for its physical images, and there are many visual delights. For example, the grooms travel from bride to bride, giving each a post-ceremony kiss, when suddenly, through a cunning change of movement, there are two male partners and two female partners, who also kiss.

The kiosk has holes in the walls, and there is a very funny sequence where single legs of both brides and grooms poke out and perform cancan steps. The assumption here is that these naked, dancing legs are a symbol of the joy of sex.

At another time, as Danzon moves the kiosk around at a dizzying pace, we get a whirligig of legs, arms and faces glimpsed through the various peep holes. It's a clever metaphor, the brides and grooms depicted as scattered body parts, a deconstruction of a single life before becoming part of a united one.

The various dance/physical theatre sequences, devised by Danzon and Susie Burpee, cover a wide range of emotions. A formal, nervous minuet as they marry, an awkward, robotic first dance, a bored and desultory Charleston number indicating the bloom is off the rose, and a knock-down, drag-out fight.

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Danzon's clever soundtrack is made up of a potpourri of music, sometimes descriptive, sometimes satiric. Obviously, there couldn't be a wedding without Mendelssohn, but it is the reverential Ave Maria that accompanies the fight. There are also hymns, waltzes, French accordion and classical music, and pounding disco rhythms.

In one fell swoop, Corpus presents a lifetime of experience that is implicit in the word "marriage."

Machina Nuptialis continues until Sunday.

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