Presented at the University Theatre, W & M Physical Theatre’s preview of its latest work in development Waiting Rooms in Heaven summons poignant reflections on life and the life (not) lived.
The piece takes place inside a room decorated with pristine white chairs. The only exit is a door atop some stairs, but out this door are a flock of birds that obscure the sky. This place is nowhere exact or well-defined. It is a metaphysical space whereupon eight unfortunate individuals enter into without any answers nor any clarity. Regrets from the past soon reemerge and make heavy the souls of those trapped in this mysterious unknown.
There is woven into this piece this desire that life choices were not so permanent. It is an idea that repeats itself as a wish that life were written in pencil than in pen, that one could go back and do things differently. It is an idea, however, that removes the opportunity to not only learn, but to also experience life in the moment. After all, what is a life stripped of its spontaneity? What is a life interrupted by fear and anxiety?
Driving this idea of doing one’s life over again are the “what ifs” the adult characters of this piece find themselves trapped within. Repeated again and again are what the characters wish they could have done differently if only ‘this’ or ‘that’. It is fitting then that the there is an almost violent sense of control in the movement. As if trying to change the outcomes of some past scenarios, the dancers attempt to manipulate and bend to their will the other. Their efforts are in vain just as wondering “what if?” is a futile attempt at changing the past. Where they manage to exert any sort of “real” control is in throwing the rows of chairs into one large pile. Of course, what meaningful impact does such a destructive action have in the grand scheme of things?
The company has incorporated in this piece four actors who range from 10 to 60 years old. It makes sense that the two adult characters would carry some baggage as they certainly have had the years to accumulate such burdens, but what about the little girl and teenager trapped in this room with the others? How do they, who appear to be brother and sister, fit in this place? Perhaps their baggage is of the second-hand kind, the kind handed down through the generations. If this is the case, then perhaps their wish is not to have lived life differently, but to have been born into a whole different life altogether.
The piece ends on a hopeful tone when the door is opened once again and, this time, soaring birds greet the characters. It is an invitation to let go and move on, to fly away and live a life unrestrained.
Here, the company’s latest work explores the idea that the gravity of our burdens are only as great as we allow them to be. While the current circumstances of our lives may be cemented as a result of choices made, the life not yet lived remains to be written. And this life that waits for us relies upon on the right state of mind which, in the end, makes all the difference.
With this only being stage one of development, it will be interesting to see how the piece evolves and what it will ultimately resemble when W & M Physical Theatre brings Waiting Rooms in Heaven to Calgary again in 2016.
W & M Physical Theatre’s Waiting Rooms in Heaven ran at the University of Calgary’s University Theatre Jan 22 – 24, 2014. The piece was presented as part of U of C’s School of Creative and Performing Arts’ Dance Pro Series.
Choreographed by: Wojciech Mochniej with Melissa Monteros
Performers: Wojciech Mochniej, Laura Henley, Rufi O. Rodriguez, and Serenella Sol
Guest Performers: Valerie Campbell, Valerie Pearson, Griffin Cork, Ruby June Bishop, and Kent Brockman (bass)