[Review] Perchance to Dream

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By James Norton

Perchance to Dream was a very interesting production to be doing my first review on.  Typically, stage productions at Murdoch are done with a standard formula. Once the show is cast, lines are memorized, scenes are blocked, sets are build, lighting is plotted, tears are cried, sleep is not present, etcetera. Perchance on the other hand was done in the style of a moved reading. 
“Forgive me for sounding uncultured, but what’s that?” I hear you say. I’m glad you asked! Simply put, a moved reading is a style of theatre where the actors do not memorize their lines and rely on vocal expression to convey story, rather than blocking, body language, costumes or sets.

Walking into the Studio 411 theatre space, the first thing I noticed was the layout of the stage: Three pedestals lined up downstage and the full cast of ten, clad in all black and seated on chairs upstage. 

The story jumps between two worlds, as the main character, Katherine, played by Teale Drake-Gander, attempts to establish which world is real and which world is but a dream. Along the way the show takes on some very tough themes, such as loved ones with cancer, the human unconscious, and suicide. My praise goes out to the writer, Paige Morawiec, for addressing these in a very tasteful and believable way. I even found myself becoming quite emotional during the final scene, which is a very rare occurrence for me.

You may be thinking that two worlds with the same characters, yet different personalities would become confusing faster than a third-year stats course. Fear not; the director thought of this!  We’re made aware of which world we’re in by different colored lighting and simple costume changes.  A warm yellow wash becomes a cool green and vest becomes a tie as we jump between the two.

My only major criticisms for Perchance revolve around the style of a moved reading. It was hard to get fully immersed in the world when the actors spent a third of the time with their eyes down reading a script. This emphasis on dialogue and lack of body language meant communication between characters seemed artificial and disconnected. They say that 55% of communication is in body language and I could certainly see that when watching Perchance. However, after talking with Paige, I found out that it was only intended to be a showcase of the script and so any shortcomings as a result of the style can be forgiven. 

To end on a positive note, the character work was wonderful. Each character had a purpose and they were all clearly distinct of each other with small quirks, hinting at a bigger world beyond Katherine’s story. I’d love to rave on about individual cases, but alas I only have so many words to write this.

I’m not in the habit of giving art a rating, as the experience is subjective. However, I will say, when Perchance to Dream returns, in whatever form that may be, I would strongly recommend going to see it. I know I will!

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