Andrew Barrett, the 24-year-old founder of Victoria’s Impulse Theatre and director of their new production, Wolf in the Mirror, uses some unusual methods to coax the performances he needs from his actors. He doesn’t expect his cast to conform to his singular vision, but instead encourages a concerted effort that cultivates creativity.
“With Impulse, I can’t be the vision-driven director,” says Barrett over lunch at a downtown deli. “I can’t sit them down and say ‘this is what I want.’ Instead, I ask them, ‘what do you think should happen?’ and if it jives with the way I feel about the piece, we implement it.”
Many directors see the cast as employees, rather than partners, but Barrett trusts the actors involved in his productions. After all, there is a reason that he selected them for their parts.
“The actors do their own research, and I never want to know very much about what they learned. Then I say, ‘go away, and come up with a shape based on depression, or a waterfall, or a tree.’ ”
Shapes. Emotion. Inner world. Inner dialogue. These words come up often as Barrett explains his process. It makes sense because many of his productions, like Wolf, have the added challenge of being totally free of dialogue, which means the story must be told solely through movements and expressions, a technique he feels is extremely effective when done properly.
“I did a show at the Fringe Festival in 2012, and there was a girl in the cast who didn’t gesture at all, but she carried the story because she was actually listening and being affected. She created a whole inner world around her, just by acting. When I think about her performance it makes me cry.”
Wolf in the Mirror is a cutting-edge Canadian stage play and it requires a modern approach. The audience should keep an open mind to freely interpret what they see on stage.
“I’d like the audience just to sit and not try to figure out what the actual story is. I love it when the audience tells me what the story was about.”
So what is Wolf about? Well, Barrett seems reluctant to proffer an explanation, but after a deep breath, he gives it a try.
“The story follows a girl, and her transformations into a witch by a man who has an ensemble of shadows around him. Ultimately, the piece is about rising up against a tyrant who has stolen your identity.”
Wolf in the Mirror opens on June 19 at the Metro Studio Theatre. For more information, go to impulsetheatre.ca.