Co-creator and performer Chad Dembski, right, takes a moment to study the visuals during the performance of Farewell in Aarhus, Denmark in 2013. Farewell comes Victoria for the first time during Intrepid Theatre’s Winterlab Festival, Jan. 25-Feb. 1.

Secret Theatre revealed at Winterlab

Intrepid Theatre's winter festival features a site-specific creation for Victoria by Halifax artists

Growing up in Halifax, Dustin Harvey witnessed a steady stream of friends departing for better opportunity in bigger cities.

Harvey chose to put down roots in his hometown in spite of those limited economic incentives, but was soon struck by the powerful camaraderie amongst those who stayed.

“I’m really interested in exploring locality, and more specifically our relationship to place,” he says, days before flying to Victoria to showcase his work as part of Winterlab.

Local audiences will be exposed to two of Harvey’s collaborative pieces – (We) Are Here and Farewell Victoria – for the first time as part of Intrepid Theatre’s annual winter fest, Jan. 25 to Feb. 1.

The shows have already been well received at festivals across Canada and as far away as Aarhus, Denmark and Cork, Ireland.

In (We) Are Here, two actors tell the story of a travelling, homesick girl whose relationship is falling apart.

The audience faces a projection screen fed by two autonomous displays being manipulated by an actor. The resulting mix of playful and melancholic imagery is set to the music of indie darling Jenn Grant.

“It’s primarily a live film experience,” Harvey says. “There are two performers who both have video cameras and we create images like a collage, one projector on top of another projector.”

Harvey’s more recent creation, Farewell, is tailored to be “site-specific,” incorporating photos and stories of its host city.

“We’re dealing with that idea of homesickness and longing,” he says.

The location of Farewell Victoria will remain a secret (appropriate to Harvey’s production house name, Secret Theatre) until the day of the performance. But previous shows have used reclaimed derelict spaces to explore what would happen if everyone who left a city decided to stay.

“In Aarhus, we used an empty train station. In Cork, it was a concrete warehouse building that was intended to be a department store but was never finished. In Halifax, it’s an old pool hall that became a pharmacy at some point,” Harvey says.

Wherever Farewell Victoria finds a temporary home, expect to be gently led to a place of reflection and melancholy.

“We actually play to the limitations of technology,” Harvey says. “I want the work to feel human and handmade, even though we’re using these devices. That’s what we hope is conveyed. If you look for it, you’ll see the theatre constructions over it.”

Winterlab runs Jan. 25 to Feb. 1. For a full Winterlab Festival schedule and tickets, visit intrepidtheatre.com.

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