Sparks fly in Frédérick Gravel's This Duet That We've Already Done

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This Duet That We’ve Already Done (so many times) | Frédérick Gravel | The Cultch | November 27 – December 1, 2018

Frédérick Gravel and Brianna Lombardo stroll casually around the stage, warming up, preparing their many pairs of shoes, and queuing up music on an iPad as the audience comes into the theatre to take their seats. They maintain this nonchalant air throughout the duet. It’s not that they act as if the audience isn’t there — there are a few moments where they make deliberate and sustained eye contact with us — but for the most part they act as if they are indifferent to our presence.

The two begin by standing and appraising the audience in silence. There are a few moments like this, but the piece builds as they gradually begin to interact more and their movements go from staccato and stilted to fiery, passionate and intense. It’s as if they are sizing each other up with shy, furtive glances until they finally gain the courage to connect.

Once they do, the sparks fly and an athletic sequence of sprinting jumps, diving falls, and powerful contact work amps up the tension and energy between them. The tone is more than just passionate and verges on aggressive at times as they pull each other’s hair and throw each other down onto the stage.

Seemingly moving through the stages of a relationship from the initial meeting, to the early passion, and finally to the all-knowing stage where they appraise each other’s bodies, ashamed of nothing. As the rock music reaches a crescendo and they stop for a whiskey break, the piece seemed to be coming to a natural close. There were a couple of moments where it felt like an ending, and the piece could have been shortened to be less repetitive.

The three works of Gravel’s that I’ve previously had the pleasure of seeing, Thus Spoke; All Hell is Breaking Loose; and Some Hope for the Bastards, all had one thing in common: Gravel spoke to the audience quite a bit and shared his unique, wry brand of humour that really coloured the movement and added an element of rebelliousness and cool that really defines his work. I missed that in this piece.

We finally do get to hear from Gravel near the end, but instead of addressing the audience with his wry humour, he sings. This might have been the highlight of the show for me. There is something about his voice that has a way of conveying emotion so well, almost better than his movements. As he sang “Run from me darlin’” we get the sense that perhaps the relationship portrayed had devolved into something unhealthy.

While this wasn’t as impressive as Gravel’s previous works, it still has his signature rock ‘n’ roll edge and there is no doubt that he and Lombardo have great chemistry as performers as they embody all the uncertainty and passion of a romantic encounter.

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