So last Tuesday I played chess with the Grim Reaper. What’s the catch? This Death was an actor from the Radix theatre company. A group from British Columbia that was in Ottawa as part of B.C. Scene. The B.C. Scene is an ambitious series of theatre, dance, and musical performances taking place all over Ottawa for the next couple weeks.
My encounter with Death was part of their appropriately named production “The Performance Art Trap.” During this performance, one audience member goes into a box and interacts with a single actor. Part of the performance is visible to the rest of the audience (when the box is open) and part of it is hidden (when the box closed). This concept appealed to me,on many levels, and in order to satisfy my curiosity I got in line to go in the box.
I was originally a little uncertain how to proceed and wondered whether or not I should attempt to play some type of character as well. A friend of mine (Sterling 🙂 http://sterlinglynch.wordpress.com/) suggested it would be probably be best if I just “played” myself.
I decided to follow his advice, so I strutted into the box, threw my long black coat over the chair, shook hands with the Reaper, and said “Let’s play!” After a few moves, it quickly became apparent that Death wasn’t much of a chess player and I was grinning like a cat about to pounce on a mouse. Yes, I am that competitive even when playing mythical characters.
It was about at this point that the box was closed and I was left alone with Death. Now it should be said that Death doesn’t talk much (he is silent through out the game) and yet there was palpable shift in his tone. In the beginning Death was a rather sombre chess player. He grudgingly nodded in acceptance as I captured piece after piece slowly gaining complete control of the board.
Now with the box shut, Death seemed to be taking his imminent defeat rather well. I began to play faster. I didn’t even have to think that hard to find the best move. Death was literally giving his pieces away and yet, with each piece I captured, the Reaper was smiling. By the end he was tossing his own pieces into the small wooden box by his side.
Then suddenly a phone rang. I had not noticed this phone before probably because of my ruthless concentration on the board and the Reaper. The sound of the ring was actually a bit of a surprise.
Death pointed a long finger (his signature move) at me and motioned that I should answer it. A woman’s voice was on the other end. “Your time is up” she said.
The message for me was pretty clear” it doesn’t matter how good you play in the end you can’t beat the clock.
I would like to take this opportunity to compliment the performer. His real name was left out of the flyer so I can’t name him directly but his performance was solid through out. I’m pretty sure the “security guard” directing traffic and operating the box was also a part of the company. If this is true, than the fact that I am uncertain illustrates the quality of her performance as well. I didn’t have the opportunity to explore the other boxes, but based on my experience with this one performance I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the performance as a whole. The B.C scene is a whole lot of fun. Check it out while it’s here. It will be gone way too soon.