The Playgoer: PLAYGOER REVIEW: FATHOM (by Sabooge)

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Monday, July 11, 2005


by Sabooge
Soho Thinktank "Ice Factory" Festival (July 6-9)

The name of the Montreal-based company "Sabooge" is an anglicized corruption of a French physical theatre tenet: ca bouge, i.e. "it moves." How tempting to say the troupe's work in general is a similar bastardization of their mâitre, the late Jacques Lecoq, but I will resist. In truth, their piece Fathom provided some arresting images and a couple of impressive physical performances. But I was disappointed in the downright sloppiness of the bodily articulation in many of the actors. Theatrical mime need not always dazzle, like a circus act, but one expects more than lazy vague gestures pantomiming tea sipping and the like. They seem to be a company possessed of more inspiration than proficiency.
Like many "devised theatre" plays--collaborative efforts where no single playwright is credited--the script of Fathom is at once ambitious in scope and glaringly lacking in compelling dialogue. Stuffing in such stimulating historical subjects as Darwinism, colonialism, and phrenology, this fantasy about the exploitation of a boy in 19th century Tasmania who can breathe underwater shows its research on its sleeve. In the absence of a real writer to craft it all (and actors seemingly more trainined for movement than for speech) Sabooge is better off communicating through their carefully crafted images, abetted by adventurous sound and lighting design.
Helen Shaw in the NY Sun went apeshit over this. I guess we're so starved for any taste of the Lecoq-ian aesthetic between visits from such expert practitioners as Simon McBurney's Theatre de Complicité . Based on Fathom, I'd say Sabooge is still Complicité-lite. But it served as an introduction to the style.

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