Spurt of Blood is NOT production for the faint of heart. It will make you uncomfortable physically and psychologically, but if you can tough it out I guarantee you a theatrical experience like you’ve never had before.
I had a chance to speak to Director Marissa Blair about what audiences should expect. She informed me that they are active participants as well as observers.
The layout of the performance is not your typical theatre layout. The audience is brought into a room with an oval of chairs surrounding the stage area, with only a couple of gaps to allow the cast in.
Each audience member is handed an LED light and instructed to turn on the light and swirl it above their heads if they decide they want to leave. Should they decide to do so, there will be no re-admittance and no refunds.
Disclaimers out of the way, the stage area’s only door is sealed with black duct tape and the lights are dimmed.
Spurt of Blood was written by philosopher Antonin Artaud when he was developing his Theatre of Cruelty philosophy.
“The show is what Theatre of Cruelty calls for, an attack on the senses. It is aggressive, and I take some risk in creating sensations – the Cruelty is the body’s necessary response. An audience member will hear, see, smell, feel, and possibly taste. It’s primal, and very effective.”
True to what Blair said, it IS an attack on the senses. Audiences are left in the dark half the time, with only flashlights, lit matches, or video projectors allowing us to see what’s going on.
You’ll hear recordings of music, and of noise. You’ll see images and videos projected onto the ceiling. And you’ll hear a variety of languages from French to English to Dutch and some you may not recognize.
There will also be riveting performances; Kathy Slamen was particularly powerful as the spotlight illuminated her harrowing tale of being diagnosed with cancer. Later in the show, she sang along to The Eurythmics’ Here Comes the Rain Again with the vocal prowess that would make Annie Lennox proud. Tofunmi Famotibe was beautiful as the joyful, dancing seductress in a red dress.
Some performances will make viewers uncomfortable. Jeroen Lindeman was so effectively creepy, his performance led to a couple of viewers raising their LEDs. He remained perfectly still as the lights went on so they could be led out of the room, before it was re-sealed, the lights dimmed, and the show went on.
Marissa Blair warned me that audiences should expect to be splattered with non-toxic washable stage blood, purchased from a small company in Chicago, Illinois. What she didn’t say is that the venue only has one bathroom, and the blood is VERY sticky – “a wonderful sensorial experience!” but only if you like being covered in syrup.
Some audience members – myself included – embraced being sprayed with blood, for in the moment it feels great and you truly feel part of what’s going on. Unfortunately with nowhere to clean off after the show, those considering seeing it should invest in a pack of wet wipes or pray that it’s raining when you’re out of the venue.
I had sticky fake blood in my hair, on my clothes, and all over my hands and arms. I marched straight from the theatre to the nearest shower as fast as I could.
Though the massive spurts of blood were a truly climatic moment, the show continued, something I felt was unnecessary. The spraying blood was so powerful why not end on a high note?
That said, I had no idea what to expect when I went into Spurt of Blood, and I found myself enjoying the mindf*ck it gave me. If you’re afraid of the dark or squeamish around blood, don’t see this show. But if you’re feeling brave, and you have a raincoat and wet wipes, check it out!
Just don’t wear white.
Antonin Artaud’s Spurt of Blood plays at the Montreal Fringe until June 15. Tickets and info: montrealfringe.ca
Photos by Samantha Gold