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Theatre SKAM's Labyrinth offers existential journey through life

The public is invited to wander through the cycle of birth, life and death.

Theatre Skam presents Labyrinth

Where: 655 Tyee Rd., Victoria

When: Through May 22. Various showtimes

Tickets: $15 through skam.ca/labyrinth

Take a journey through fragmented memories of infancy, the messiness of adolescence and the unrelenting ambivalence of adulthood, all while facing the inevitable conclusion of life.

That’s the path created by Theatre SKAM in its newest installation, Labyrinth.

With help from more than 36 artists, technicians and carpenters, the Victoria theatre company converted the bottom floor of a Vic West office building into an existential adventure that takes viewers through a texture, image, sound and light-filled pilgrimage guided only by thought-provoking words and the winding walls of the exhibit.

Creator Matthew Payne said Labyrinth is a response to the pandemic. But it’s also about the cycle of life.

“Labyrinths have been around for centuries,” he said. “This one is meant to be a place where people come and meander with purpose, so that you have a little moment for yourself to reflect on what’s been going on the past few years.”

The installation starts with a sign that reads: ‘It’s not what we go through, it’s how we go through it.’

“It’s representative of what we’ve all been going through the last couple years,” Payne said. “No matter whether you have roommates or you’re coupled, or you have a family, you’ve still been going through the last two years on your own. And everybody is on their own path in a way. Like life.”

Set designer Catherine Hahn said death was an inspiration for much of the exhibit — and skulls placed throughout represent how it is woven throughout our lives, not just the endings.

“This whole journey is peppered with skulls, some of them fanciful and some subliminal. I would hope people start to think about death in a not-so-frightful way,” she said. “It’s a part of our life in so many ways.”

Hahn hopes the installation can provide people with new perspective.

“Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about [death] in a more deliberate way,” she said, adding that a recent loss called her attention to the need for planning and preparation. “We’re all in such great denial, in this culture anyway.”

Whether you’re wandering past a stuffed animal tower representing early life, or through the brand-filled commodification of teenagehood, or finally, to the skull imagery of your final destination, the installation is meant to be both nostalgic and discomforting.

Dreamlike, interactive art pieces invoke wonder, but subliminally and literally pose a deeper question to exhibit-goers: Are you willing to face mortality?

Labyrinth is located at 655 Tyee Road. The exhibit runs May 11 to May 22 but may be open longer depending on demand. Entry is $15.