“Do you feel oppressed? Do you feel society is oppressive? Do you feel that culture is oppressive?” probes Dr. Catharsis, in an unmistakably parodic German accent, smack dab in the middle of Parc des Amériques. After a private session discussing one’s daily experience of oppression with Dr. Catharsis, your prescription is to find a rock, meet at Parc du Portugal, paint an image of oppression on the rock, and then walk to a back alley and throw your newly-created-found-objet-d’art at a television set.
Infringement Therapy is a still-incubating piece by the Optative Theatrical Lab, headed by Donovan King, and it is no surprise that this piece shares its name with the festival. The Infringement Festival was created in response to King’s avant-garde, Car Stories, being ousted from Montreal’s 2001 Fringe Festival ten years ago. Car Stories was eschewed from the festival when The Gazette threatened to pull their sponsorship because of the play’s antagonistic view towards theatre critics.
Like Car Stories, Infringement Therapy directly involves the audience. King’s wonderfully bombastic self is able to hold the weight of the piece as he probes and invites the audience to visualize their oppressions, while assistants scurry around providing background music and paintbrushes. One of the strengths (or weaknesses) of the piece is that your experience is directly dependent on the openness of the spectators. In other words, the play will be as interesting as your fellow audience members make it.
Amongst the seemingly superfluous activity, Infringement Therapy begins to raise some serious questions—which is where the piece finds its niche. Infringement Therapy invites interconnections between people’s aversion to street theatre and cultural or social oppression. It also, quite successfully, asks the audience to question their daily reality by asking them “What kinds of oppression have you experienced today?”
The performance manages to balance its confrontational attitude with an invitation to critically examine the quotidian—whether that includes a walk in the park, therapeutic rock art, or shattering a television set to smithereens—the spectator is urged to meet their reality with a bang, not a whimper.
Infringement Therapy will be playing at the Buffalo Infringement Festival (July 28th-August 7th), the Hamilton Infringement Festival (September 1st-11th) and the next Montreal Infringement Festival. For more information, visit: http://www.infringementfestival.com/
Laura Freitag is a newly graduated (slightly directionless) student, theatre practitioner, and a sometimes poet.