Impulse Theatre strives to bring magic to the stage

Sense of place was paramount when Andrew Barrett started Impulse Theatre.

The movement-based performance company, which blends elements of dance with theatre, has taken audiences into several unconventional spaces. Whether presenting in a parking lot, on a rock in James Bay or in the gardens of Esquimalt’s English Inn, creating site-specific works has meant designing pieces to fit the unusual venues.

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When the venue is a traditional theatre, however, as will be the case this week, the challenge might shift. But it doesn’t change the overall goal of the work, according to Barrett.

“In site-specific work, you have the space already. How can you turn that into a place of magic? And then in theatre [the question becomes] what world can you take the audience into? So they are different means to getting to the same place,” he said.

Impulse Theatre presents Wolf in the Mirror, which begins tonight with a preview and opens Friday. The story keeps with Barrett’s inclination toward magic and myth.

“The loose narrative we’re following is there’s a woman and her sister who meet this magical man in the woods. He offers the woman a gift, and she decides to take it. But then she’s forced to deal with the consequences of the gift,” Barrett said.

Barrett, 24, first created the piece with a team as part of the University of Victoria’s Student Alternative Theatre Company. But it has grown and changed since then — first for a staging at Vancouver’s Firehall Arts Centre and now in Victoria. Originally 20 minutes, the work is now a full hour.

“We have changed and developed new characters and kind of combined characters and retooled it.

Each cast member also has a part in shaping the work.

“I left it up to them to harvest material or narrative; then I would kind of forge it and sculpt it,” Barrett said. “I like this process because I then discover new things I was never expecting and they get to go to new places, too.”

The cast of eight includes the woman, sister and wolf, as well as five “shadows” that are part-character part-set. Barrett’s former classmate Emily Piggford returns from Toronto to play the lead. Piggford as been featured on TV series including Hemlock Grove, Cracked, The Listener and Lost Girl.

Barrett — who studied dance with Constance Cooke at the same time that he was in UVic’s theatre department — draws artists from both disciplines for his pieces. In this case, the majority come from the theatre world, which means some extra coaching on movement.

Barrett compared the piece to a music video — it’s like acting to a score that includes music by Bjork and other Euro songstresses.

“It’s very cinematic and visually based,” he said. “We’re letting you into the work through the emotion and characters.”

But the dance-phobic needn’t be afraid, as there’s a clear storyline to follow.

As Impulse moves forward, Barrett said he’s still planning to make site-specific works. But he also won’t limit the company to that.

His goal is to create a sustainable company that creates new works locally and also tours. In addition to a collaborative process and penchant for the mystical, he plans to distinguish its approach in other ways.

“I see Impulse as a company that’s creating very diverse but very sensitive and emotionally driven work,” he said.

What: Impulse Theatre’s Wolfin the Mirror

When: Tonight through Saturday, 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m.

Where: Metro Studio, 1411 Quadra St.

Tickets: $25 regular, $15 students/seniors/artists/children at Pay what you can tonight (preview show).

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