A mildly inebriated White Cabin review (High Performance Rodeo)

Thank goodness I’m not reviewing this officially. I’ve been considering starting theatre reviews, given that Fast Forward only has one theatre reviewer, which is hardly enough, but starting with a tricky piece of Russian surrealism would be daunting, to say the least.

In the most basic terms, White Cabin is a highly surreal piece of clown theatre, but that description doesn’t do it much justice. There’s not much that’s silly about it — not that it’s lacking in humour, but it’s not as frivolous as what usually comes to mind when you talk about clowning. It’s also almost completely non-narrative, though on some level it seems to be about a love triangle that ultimately results in madness and suicide. Describing it in terms of story also seems reductive, though, as the clip below (which actually shows sizable portion of the 70 minute play) should show:

So, what do you say about a piece that seems designed to defy description? Well, there are a few areas worth commenting on. It’s a very indulgent work, and not just in the way that it trusts the audience to accept abstract symbolism and incongruous visuals. A good deal of alcohol is either consumed or wasted throughout the piece, from a suicide by wine bottle to the spilling of champagne and the chugging of bottles of beer. You might wonder if it’s simply props, but the smell in the theatre says otherwise. It also might mark the only time that I’ve seen a naked woman pour milk over her body — not that I’m complaining.

But the main issue is whether White Cabin is worth watching, and it certainly is. The visuals are consistently inventive, using everything from bubble gum to candles, LEDs and nested projection screens to create images that evoke emotions, if nothing else. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, clocking in at just over an hour. It isn’t afraid to be silly, even while it tries to evoke more than a simple laugh or two. And most importantly, it’s fascinating. Some surrealist work is little more than frustrating, unleashing images and taunting viewers with their incomprehensibility. This one triggers curiousity more than anything else — it’s tantalizingly close to comprehensible in parts. Somehow the fact that it remains unknowable just makes it more interesting.

EDIT: When I was writing this review, I was searching for a word that just would not arrive. It was decadent. White Cabin is a thoroughly decadent work, from the use of actual alcohol to all of the imagery for imagery’s sake. Which isn’t to imply that any of its energy is wasted, just that it is a rich and quite possibly excessive experience. Decadent.

One Response to “A mildly inebriated White Cabin review (High Performance Rodeo)”
  1. Mark Rabin says:

    Great review! All true, and definitely lots of booze and smokes!!! Fascinatingly decadent.

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