Photo Credit: Andrew Myers
In Declarations, acclaimed playwright-director Jordan Tannahill reckons with his mother’s mortality, and his own, through a joyful and moving attempt to capture the objects, sensations, and experiences that makes up a life. Through a lyrical text and physical score of choreographed gestures, five performers chronicle a life pulled through time, encountering meteorological phenomena, mythology, political calamity, pop culture, and everyday happenstance along the way. What accumulates is a staggering archive of sensations, memories, and voices asserting that here lived, for a time, a woman.
Declarations is a lyrical piece for five performers. At once playful and moving, it is a meditation on the objects, images, and sensations that make up a life.
The set consists of a white square and four suspended florescent lights. A performer enters and begins making a series of declarative statements beginning with the words ‘This is…’ This is a pressed bruise. This is Greta Garbo’s smile. This is the smell of Windex. For every statement she performs an accompanying score of simple, improvised gestures. The gestures are sometimes illustrative, sometimes abstract, sometimes comic, but are always spontaneously generated afresh each performance. Four more performers gradually join her onstage until there is a small chorus of voices and gestures. Recurring threads of narrative emerge — a conversation with a lover, the pending death of a mother, a prom night car crash, ecological and societal collapse — alongside meteorological phenomenon, mythology, political calamity, pop culture, and everyday happenstance. What gradually accumulates is a staggering archive of images, sensations, and objects of a life-lived.
“NNNN - Declarations beautifully charts the flow of human memory…Jordan Tannahill's experimental show articulates why we shouldn’t take life’s uneventful moments for granted...writer/director Jordan Tannahill’s Declarations is a beautiful articulation of why we shouldn’t take life’s uneventful moments for granted. Inspired by his mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis, the 70-minute piece charts the flow of human memory and turns remembering into a joyful act.”NOW MagazineKevin Ritchie
3 ½ out of ★★★★ - “Declarations is a devastating but joyous statement about life and grief…Cast is superb in Jordan Tannahill’s interdisciplinary production created in response to mother’s cancer diagnosis... For most of its duration, this show is not about tears and sadness; it’s about taking stock in the absolute present and this is expressed by the performers really reacting, not acting.”Toronto StarKaren Fricker
Declarations is an exquisite, complex, moving, layered, poetic, theatrical piece about a son’s love for his Mother, grief, belief, joy and life… Declarations is a challenging work but, as most things, it must be met at least half way. Tannahill puts us in his conflicted emotional world and at times keeps us at a distance. Ebb and flow. Like life.”The Slotkin LetterLynn Slotkin
What's makes Declarations unusual is that it is not fuelled by grief – but the heightened awareness of mortality that comes when a loved one is given a terminal diagnosis. It felt like someone trying to process something pre-emptively – and the distanced, distracted result suggests the impossibility of preparing for the loss of a parent. Again, however, this is what makes Declarations original – a constructive failure of performance. The gestures, improvised, eventually develop a sameness lacking in choreographed work. It turns out there are not a million movements a performer can pull out of their head at a moment's notice. And maybe here is life, rather than death: At first everything seems a new discovery – and then even joys become repetitive, and then maybe a new joy is there to be found in repetition, like the chorus of a song.The Globe and MailJ. Kelly Nestruck