Mata Hari

Mata Hari – Single Line Theatre (Mar 31 – Apr 3)

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Mata Hari is a collaborative “création” by Single Line Theatre, which is running this weekend at the Studio 16 theatre space at 1555 West 7th Ave – showtimes below.

This piece, created by Rachel Peake (Director) and Sinziana Corozel (who also plays the title role,) is an exploration into the life of the infamous seductress and alleged international spy, Mata Hari.  Performed in French, with English subtitles, the work tells the story through a combination of movement, sound and text, and highlights the duality between her two selves – Mata Hari, the temptress, and Margaretha Zelle, the woman.

A dynamic relationship between using words as action and movement as language, speaks to the essence of Mata Hari herself, who is quoted as saying, “The dance is a poem of which each movement is a word.”

There were beautiful moments of expressive movement – most notably when she interacted with her ‘men’ – played by Scott Augustine and Shane Snow – that were (almost) free.  Those moments were lovely. though I craved a little more physical release. There is another wonderful section, when Mata Hari is imprisoned for her suspected crimes, where the movement really comes together and feels authentic and well-envisioned in its embodiment.

The entire show takes place ‘onstage’, transparently moving from scene to scene, almost effortlessly, and even the soundscape becomes part of the performance.  Mark Haney does a truly beautiful job of informing, infusing and often elevating the entire performance with his thoughtful music and sound throughout.  (I cannot say enough about the flow of the huge double bass – I really think he held it all together.)

The scenes were set using sparingly-selected props and costuming, with a balance between the literal and the suggested, and I think they did a good job of painting the frames of the story as we went along.  We learned of Miss Zelle’s metamorphoses from daughter to woman, wife to temptress, and from mystical performer to convicted traitor.

A tale that is a challenge to tell is always a worthwhile endeavor and within this particular challenge were some lovely and poignant aesthetic moments that really worked – the surprise of the photographer’s flash in one scene was fun, for example, and the beautiful, sparkly costume that was revealed as she sashayed into her new persona, (I wanted more of that!)  My favourite image, however, was of her scarf, left draped and trailing across the stage, after her long-awaited execution, during which she refused to wear the blindfold.

Keeping in mind that this was the first preview, there were certainly some shaky sections which seemed a bit disjointed and the movement somewhat tentative, but in the spirit of Mata Hari herself, I expect it will shift and transform over the next few days – each performance delving a little deeper into the soul of the story.  The entire ensemble seemed committed to the process, and what is art, if not an exploration…?

“I work, I search, I try.” – Mata Hari

Mata Hari runs from Thursday, March 31st through Sunday, April 3rd – evenings at 8pm; with matinées at 2pm on Saturday & Sunday

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