by Dorianne Emmerton
I had no prior knowledge of the 2005 controversy surrounding the destruction of Haydn Llewellyn Davies’ sculpture ‘Homage’ when I went to see this play. It was appropriately titled Homage, and produced by 2b Theatre Company as a part of LuminaTO. Now I know all about it, and about the existence of moral rights for artist’s work. This was an educational as well as a theatrical experience and succeeded in both without being overly didactic.
The play is a true story of one man’s battle with a public entity after a late-in-life rise to fame as a sculptor of large works. It is based on an incident of Lambton College destroying a sculpture without informing the artist, a piece that they had commissioned thirty years earlier.
Homage tries to be a thoughtful piece that considers the impermanence of art and life through the microcosm of Davies’ experience. It almost succeeds at it too. Unfortunately, I felt at times the necessity of sticking to the facts of this one man’s story hindered the script’s ability to expand on its more philosophical questions.
There are some fictionalizations, of course: the public entity that commissioned and then destroyed the art was changed from a college to a town, for example. These felt like minor modifications though, and the storyline stuck fairly strictly to the trajectory of Davies’ life.
As an audience member, I was more intrigued by the more philosophical ideas that popped up such as: the distinction between the value versus the cost of art, the unfulfillable desire to create something entirely objective, the male ego driving an artist to create huge pieces for notable awards while the female artist makes small pieces for almost no recognition.
The play is in the round, with massive wooden structures backing the audience seating areas – a reference to ‘Homage’ the sculpture, which was made out of wood. The set is comprised of a number of curved wooden benches of varying sizes that can be stacked in different ways to create a variety of settings. The staging is excellent: never once do you feel you can’t see properly, which sometimes happens with theatre in the round, with entrances and exits that are smooth, seamless, and occasionally very funny.
There is one scene that I found very jarring and out of place – a parody of another Canadian artist. He is mentioned derogatorily earlier in the show, which worked well as it comes out of the mouths of the actors while in character. However, I did not see the need to include a whole scene where he was parodied. This artist’s methods are controversial and easy to make fun of, but this was not a play about this-sort-of-art versus that-sort-of-art, so the inclusion of this scene seemed petty.
The strength of the performance and the incredible use of space saved the piece and made it very entertaining and enjoyable throughout. The play itself was a piece of mobile sculpture: just as ‘Homage’ the sculpture was reminiscent of Stonehenge, Homage the play is reminiscent of ‘Homage’ the sculpture – and therefore also reminiscent of Stonehenge.
–Homage is playing as part of the Luminato Festival at the The Joey & Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre (227 Front street East) June 17th to 19th.
-There are nightly shows at 8 pm and a Saturday afternoon matinee at 1:30 on the 19th.
-Ticket price is $35.
-Tickets are available online.