In this odd time of no live theatre, the depths of winter and a spiritual hunger, Aaron Collier mines the cosmos to find meaning in life, love and loss.
His 75-minute, multimedia performance Frequencies, streaming online through Sunday, is celestial and individual, philosophically expansive in ideas about time, love and grief but also a simply-told personal story.
How this fusion of theatre, techno concert and digital scenography is told is technologically innovative. The viewer sees Collier and his keyboards as he is filmed in the black box of the Bus Stop Theatre by a second, invisible actor wearing a VR headset with a camera.
Collier is charming, low-key and honest as he plays himself as a man on a quest for lost souls, including his own; for different perspectives on life and for the truth of a family secret.
He first searches in the stars that swirl and vortex on the screen as he speaks lines including “I don’t know that you can say a distant fire is meaningless” and “Maybe I can bring him back as a tiny point of light.”
Frequencies begins in murky black and white with Collier as a kind of mad scientist with a magic machine seemingly manipulating circles, lines and patterns of light.
The poetic text, by Collier, Giller-nominated novelist Francesca Ekwuyasi (Butter Honey Pig Bread) and longtime Zuppa Theatre collaborator Stewart Legere, is the story of Collier’s life, from birth in 1981 through a wonderful P.E.I. childhood “of cousins and cookies” to an uneasy adolescence and young adulthood.
There is an emptiness within him, a sense of being different and a feeling of being unanchored and unworthy that as he ages manifests itself in a “black hole” of despair.
Wonderful parts of this show include family stories about his instant love as a child for a piano and his fervent prayers to get one, a repeating dream of a field with an ominous red sphere in the sky and a psychedelic punch of colour when the perspective of time and life is given over to a giant, multi-lined, multi-coloured bee whose wings beat to the music.
As a techno composer, Collier took frequencies in nature and turned them into music. He explains it this way: “I set out to create music that would give me access to new perspectives. I would get curious about some kind of natural phenomenon that occurs in milliseconds or over millennia and then work to manifest it as music.
“I discovered the music the earth plays over millions of years, I discovered the harmonious relationships of the planetary orbits in our solar systems, and I discovered how a bee might experience time. What I didn’t expect to discover was an unanswered question I’ve had since childhood, and a desire to finally seek the answer.”
The strongly rhythmic and celestial music matched with images made of light and line and colour make this show mystical and meditative, a spiritual experience.
If times were different I’d love to see it in a quiet, dark room full of human beings in the shared communal experience of theatre. However, online, Frequencies delivers what good art does: new thoughts and insights and perspectives on life as well as, in the very act of creation, an affirmation of life.
Directed by Ann-Marie Kerr, it is presented by Heist Theatre, creators of The Princess Show, Princess Rules and New Waterford Boy: A Ceilidh, with Prairie Theatre Exchange, Pi Theatre and Theatre Outre. Show times (AST) are: Feb. 19, 10 p.m.; Feb. 20, 8:00 pm; Feb. 21, 4 and 8 p.m. Tickets are available at liveheist.com.