Collective Subconscious: Zuke’s Codex Nocturno

There often seems to be very little room for the beautiful in postmodern theatre.  Productions which are preoccupied with challenging convention and provoking a reactive response from their audiences tend to neglect any aesthetic in favour of creating challenging and difficult works.  While Kadozuke Kollektif’s Codex Nocturno is indeed a challenging and evocative piece of theatre that parts with convention, it is foremost a strikingly beautiful piece of art that is as much a delicious visual treat as it is a substantive cerebral meal.  After speaking with Kadzuke’s Artistic Director, Tatiana Jennings, and senior member, Brooke Stubbings, it became clear how they have been able to achieve this.

Jennings, who is a Russian-born actor and director with a background in dance and choreography, claims to be more influenced by visual and conceptual art than by any particular playwright, director or genre of theatre.  This is quite apparent in the stunning images and tableaus that she crafts, mixing onstage action with tactfully mounted video displays and a subtle, yet ever present soundtrack, which she controls and mixes on the fly from within the room.  These elements create a truly immersive experience for the audience, who are invited to invest a great deal of their own interpretation of the events of a story that revolves around the subconscious dreamspaces of a young couple played by Caitlin Morris-Cornfield and Scott Edwards as they battle with the torments of a miscarried pregnancy.

It’s really not meant to have a straightforward storyline – it has a storyline for us, but that is not clearly revealed to the public, because that is not the point – to have a storyline, or [a] message.  The point is to have a kind of environmental art… to create an environment and affect you by bringing you into that environment, where there is enough space in the air that the audience can have their own interpretation inserted into those spaces.” -Tatiana Jennings (Artistic Director)

I was particularly struck by the strength of the ensemble’s performances. I initially attributed it to careful and expert casting on the part of Jennings, but Stubbings was able to provide insight into Kadozuke’s unique process that has resulted in such a tailored feel.  She recounts how Jennings leads the collective in sessions of directed improv, which allows characters to develop organically. It reflects each member’s idiosyncratic strengths as opposed to imposing a preconceived character on the players and pressuring them to adapt.  The result is an energetic chain of performances without any obvious weak links.  Of particular note is the standout physical acting of Lacey Creighton, who delivers a startlingly engrossing performance of an idealized robotic geisha.  Her focused movement and peculiar vocalizations are alone reason enough to see this play.  Stubbings and Sefton Jackson have a palpable chemistry onstage as the wardens of the young couple’s dream world, while Rory de Brouwer delights with charm as a quirky and eccentric celestial innkeeper.

Kadozuke Kollektif has created an alluring and graceful production in Codex Nocturno which burrows deeply into the dominion of the subconscious world that is saturated with elements of terror, scorn and palpitating desire.  It is truly a unique theatrical experience which should not be missed.

Codex Nocturno runs until July 3rd at Imagefoundry, 1581 Dupont St (just west of Symington)

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About Nick Kiverago

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