Frédérick Gravel's All Hell is Breaking Loose, Honey

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All Hell is Breaking Loose, Honey | Frédérick Gravel

November 8 – 12, 2016 | The Cultch

Frédérick Gravel, Nicolas Cantin, Tomas Furey, Dany Desjardins


Frédérick Gravel has a way of creating shows that are such a complete blend of theatre and dance that you can’t classify them in either category. At the 2016 Dancing on the Edge festival, his show Thus Spoke, was immediately endearing, bold, and like nothing I’d ever seen. Speaking directly to the audience in a wry, self-deprecating and extremely humorous manner seems to be his trademark, as he does so in both shows to great effect.

All Hell is Breaking Loose, Honey seems on the surface to be all about masculinity in its various forms, but as the four men paraded, cavorted, and stared directly into the eyes of the audience, it was obvious that this show can be interpreted on many levels. It’s personal, sexual, political, and powerful, and it forces the viewer to confront assumptions and question male identity.

Wearing short shorts, cowboy boots, and ball caps, all four performers stood in a line across the stage, holding a bottle of Budweiser. The slow pace and way they gazed into the audience ensured that we would have the time to contemplate their actions and possible meanings. Their outfits evoked sexuality, seemed to comment on the difference between dress standards for men and women, and disrupted stereotypes associated with the hyper-masculine cowboy.

After an interlude of mopping up spilled beer from the stage and Gravel addressing the audience once more, explaining his artistic purpose and motivation, one of the dancers performed a solo pole dance. He wore only cowboy boots and a curly blond wig, and gracefully disrupted stereotypes of masculinity even further as he performed something usually associated with femininity.

The music was all managed on stage by the extremely talented Tomas Furey. When he sat down at the piano and started singing I was blown away by the richness and emotion of his voice. I had never heard the song before, but it felt immediately familiar and was the perfect accompaniment for the three dancers who were translating the emotion of the romantic, melancholic song into movement.

Near the end of the show, Gravel, Desjardins, and Cantin let loose in a fury of aggressive running, jumping, sliding, and colliding that seemed to encapsulate the frustration of grappling with male identity and masculinity as defined by society. Gravel mentioned in his opening monologue that men, especially white men, don’t really have much to complain about, but they still struggle with their identity and this show beautifully disrupts masculinity in a way that allows us to think about it productively and perhaps leaves us with a new understanding about what it means to be a man in today’s hyper-gendered society. 

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