Jenifer Dahl, Naoko Murakoshi, Andrea Nann and Graham McKelvie in the Four Horsemen Project. Photo by John Lauener.
Jenifer Dahl, Naoko Murakoshi, Andrea Nann and Graham McKelvie in the Four Horsemen Project. Photo by John Lauener.

There is an odd tension that is created while watching Volcano Theatre’s The Four Horsemen Project.  For those not up on their Canadian poetry history, the 65 minute performance has the ability to make us question as to whether what we are seeing is based in reality, or are the creators of this contemporary piece simply taking the piss out of us.  Turns out it is real (or perhaps more accurately, it is both).

[pullquote]Thankfully, Alton and Manson never take themselves as seriously as the original Four Horsemen appear to have, and with tongue firmly planted in cheek, they acknowledge the past, while creating an entirely new way to view those original poems.[/pullquote]In the 1970s a group of Canadian “sound poets” known as The Four Horsemen began performing with a philosophy that poetry was more than simply words on a page, but that it should engage the whole body and mind.  The poems that the four men (bpNichol, Rafael Barreto-Rivera, Paul Dutton and Steve McCaffery)  performed were more often than not esoteric and pushed the limits of how poetry was, and still is, viewed.

In The Four Horsemen Project, Kate Alton and Ross Manson have taken a number of the group’s original poems and present them as an interdisciplinary work that includes multi-media projections and archival film footage combined with poetry, dance, and song.  Thankfully, Alton and Manson never take themselves as seriously as the original Four Horsemen appear to have, and with tongue firmly planted in cheek, they acknowledge the past, while creating an entirely new way to view those original poems.

Performed by Jenifer Dahl, Graham McKelvie, Naoko Murakoshi and Andrea Nann, this modern foursome are not only accomplished dancers and singers, there is an athleticism at times that will simply astound.  Playful and exuberant, the show is underscored by one big constant wink.  Alton’s choreography ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous and it is all brought to life by Bruce Alcock’s animations, Itai Erdal’s lighting and Cass Reimer’s groovy costumes.

Prior to the start of the opening night show, The Cultch’s Executive Director Heather Redfern called The Four Horsemen Project the best thing she has ever seen on stage.  Not simply one of the best, but the best.  No doubt that will be enough to bring some people to The Cultch.  For my money though the draw is in the fact that The Four Horsemen Project refuses to take itself too seriously.

The Four Horsemen Project conceived and directed by Kate Alton and Ross Manson.  A Vancouver East Cultural Centre presentation of a Volcano Theatre production.  On stage at The Cultch through November 2.  Visit http://thecultch.com for tickets and information.