By Stephanie Ciccarelli
August 1, 2007
The 2007 London Fringe, a festival that features new and upcoming actors, is now in full swing in London, Ontario Canada.
Awakening in an unfamiliar place, the wanderer must find his way through the twisting Labyrinth, and face the beast that waits at the centre. Walking the Labyrinth is a dark, psychological re-imagining of the story of Theseus, combining live and recorded speech, electronic vocal distortion, original music, and 2000-year old poetry.
I attended "Walking the Labyrinth" at The McManus Studio located downtown at The Grand Theatre in London, a stones throw from several local landmarks including Victoria Park, St. Peter's Basilica, and St. Paul's Cathedral.
A brief synopsis of the ancient story is that King Minos of Crete demanded from Athens a yearly tribute of seven youths and seven maidens who were set loose in the Labyrinth, an immense stone maze, to be killed and devoured by the Minotaur. To put an end to the sacrifices, Theseus, son of the King of Athens, volunteered to be part of the tribute. After landing on Crete, he met and fell in love with Ariadne, daughter of King Minos. Ariadne secretly gave Theseus a sword with which to kill the Minotaur and a thread to help him find his way back out of the Labyrinth. He entered the maze, slew the beast, and returned triumphant.
The play starts with heavy breathing and screams with foreign languages being spoken in whispers accompanying the solo actor upon the stage who we soon learn is Theseus of Athens, lost inside the Labyrinth of King Minos.
The performance was amazing and Peter was able to captivate the audience throughout by using techniques from Greek Theatre, acting as a narrator or interpretor in some cases to communicate the plot from a different point of view to his audience.
There were so many great linguistic qualities in the show as well as technical that I made sure to meet with Peter after the performance to ask him a number of questions about how the show was produced, about the voice overs, sound effects, and use of ancient languages.
As I said, this was a one man show and it was thoroughly accompanied by voice over recordings as well as miked. The disembodied, recorded voice over of Ariadne (Danielle Buonaiuto), both in song and spoken word, spoke to Theseus at times which added a melodic and melancholic air to the production.
The tension in the air was so thick. Themes that ran throughout the character of Theseus and the play itself were anguish and despair which contrasted nicely with Ariadne's hopeful, gentle and somewhat modal intercessions.
The sound effects used were reminiscent of the stone walls of the Labyrinth; cold, hollow, and wreaked of vermin and infestation. Their hollowness was symbolic of how isolated, desolate and cavernous the Labyrinth of King Minos must have been according to legend and many of the voice overs also took on a life of their own embodying similar traits.
If you are a language buff, you'll be pleased to know that Peter used not one but five languages in his play to add texture and amplify the other worldly atmosphere of the Labyrinth including Ancient Greek, Ancient Latin and Liturgical Latin, French, and English.
Although Peter honed his musical craft in theory and composition at the University of Western Ontario, the play sprung forth from an opera Peter had written as a Masters student last year at the University of Victoria. He likened the opera and the play to theme and variation.
For recording, Peter employed the Audacity software from his home PC using an SM58 microphone for Ariadne and select voice overs he recorded himself. Two different Shure microphones were used to record with for various voice overs. Peter recorded some of his own voice overs with a headset to keep consistency throughout the live show, wearing the headset on the stage as well.
Audio editing was accomplished by using Adobe Audition. Peter admits that "A liberal application of reverb covers up a lot of nasty stuff (all though you can't use it all the time, obviously)". There also was a lot of EQing going on to emphasize natural vocal qualities. Other effects Peter used included the flange, chorus effect, and a de-hissing tool which he says is fantastic.
The play runs until August 6th at the McManus Studio Theatre.French, Microphones