Trevor Copp takes on the very challenging task of adapting Herman Hesse's short novel Journey To The East, which was published in 1932 between the World Wars. Anyone familiar with the work of Hesse, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946, knows that it's complex, spiritual and inherently difficult to stage. Copp does take some liberties with the story, but its fundamentals are there.
Journey to the East makes full use of the space at the New Vision United Church. The audience is ushered onto the second floor pews for the first part of the performance. The three actors - Mike Hannigan, Zach Parsons and Copp himself - do a very good job of portraying a spiritual journey. All of the performers are fully committed to each of their movements. The use of the floor as a chalk canvas is particularly inspired.
The pace of the piece is slow and elegiac, much like the novel, forcing the audience to consider and fully appreciate the little things. All the props on set are fully used and take on significance well beyond their intended purpose. A shovel, for example, becomes a stand-in for a violin, and a violin becomes a stand-in for faith.
For the second part of the show, the audience moves to the first floor. It makes for a very interesting contrast. I'm not sure, as between Copp and director Richard Beaune, who was responsible for what, but certainly the compelling use of space and the performers' unusual and haunting movements are noteworthy highlights. In fact, the body control conveyed in this performance is unsurpassed by anything else at the Fringe that I've seen this year so far.
Journey to the East is a refreshingly quiet play that calls on us to vanquish the noise from our brains. It expects a lot from its audience, and as such won't be for everyone, but it is certainly rewarding and beautiful.
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