She may tell you otherwise, but Victoria is a talker.
And she’s a heck of a dancer, too.
Presented at the Fredericton Playhouse, Dulcinea Langfelder & Co.’s Victoria explores the life of its titular character, an elderly adult living with dementia. Energized by a vivid imagination, Victoria (Dulcinea Langfelder) is a little bit of a troublemaker. Just ask the Orderly (Erik Lapierre) who assists Victoria.
Langfelder’s choreography and staging plays with the intersection of the biographical and the medical. In an exquisite tango number, Langfelder, returning to an earlier time in the character’s history, turns Victoria’s hospital gown into a fancy dress. In a collision of identities, one being internal and the other external, Victoria’s past meets her present when Langfelder begins to dance with the character’s wheelchair. Later, using the Orderly’s shoes, Victoria performs a tap dance, in which the steps, no doubt ingrained into her muscle memory, are all there, but her movement is slack; it is a dance between lucidity and deterioration.
The subject of old age is approached with grace and profound expression by Langfelder, who has been performing Victoria since 1999. The character is not someone Langfelder wants her audience to pity, but someone she wants us to understand and view in all her complexity. And that’s make this multidisciplinary piece, based on an original idea and texts by Charles Fariala, not only refreshing, but important, too. Popular media tends to position elderly adults in secondary roles where their value is often directly related to their usefulness. That is, older people are either portrayed as wise mentors (ex: Alba Villanueva from Jane The Virgin) or a burden on their families (ex: Grampa Simpson from The Simpsons). There is little to be seen about the aging experience i.e. what it means to grow old, let alone life with a progressive disease like Alzheimer’s.
Ana Cappelluto’s set features little else but beige hospital curtains, an appropriate visual contrast to Victoria’s animated spirit. The curtains are used in several ways, including fantastic sequences of shadow theatre, a game of hide’n’seek, and setting Victoria up for hilarious innuendos. Cappelluto’s lighting syncs well with the flow of Victoria’s imagination. The progression of Victoria’s dementia is also shown through stunning, almost hypnotic, video projections (Technical Director: Vincent Santes; Sound/Video: Bruno Lavoie; Videos: Yves Labelle).
It’s rare that a performer can be funny while evoking a genuine sense of loss, but Langfelder manages to do exactly that. Even while portraying Victoria’s worst state, Langfelder finds the right balance between humour (a goofy, immoral/immortal hand puppet) and reality. Lapierre impresses with the stirring vitality of his performance, particularly in the “Cheek to Cheek” number.
Dulcinea Langfelder & Co.’s Victoria is a beautiful, genuinely moving production. Langfelder’s inspired performance should not be missed.
Dulcinea Langfelder & Co.’s Victoria’s was presented on February 14th, as part of the Fredericton Playhouse’s Spotlight Series.
For more information about the show,
To learn more about the Spotlight Series, visit: http://www.theplayhouse.ca/spotlight/