Clarice Lispector’s debut novel Near To The Wild Heart shot out of a canon in an era where many assumed the twenty-three-year-old woman was, in fact, a man writing under a pseudonym because no woman could write that well. Dear 1943, a woman did. The New Stage Theatre Company’s attempt to stage this seminal work is a provocative (albeit safe) homage to the envelopment one experiences reading the novel.
Translating Ms. Lispector’s work into English is no easy task, as her Brazilian wordplay is linguistically unique and rule-breaking. Entrekin’s 2012 translation serves as a fiercely rich arsenal for adaptor/director Ildiko Nemeth to paint a surreal pastiche of theatrical elements, which negotiate time and space on a horizontal plane, co-existing as an orchestral, almost operatic, composition.
Near To The Wild Heart follows amoral Joana through a series of moments from present-day to childhood in what one could most succinctly describe as a feminist structure. Ms. Nemeth expertly weaves this structure through a subtle nod to Aristotelian storytelling in her conducting of the multi-disciplinary music of the evening; movement and design converse together sometimes in whispers, sometimes in crescendos, and often with juxtaposed binary components. The ride is an emotional journey, enveloping the room in a simultaneously satiating and vexing haze of poetic unease.
Sarah Lemp (Joana) is expertly disparate in cognizance while (remarkably) completely present as a moving breathing vessel in space, almost outside of time. Joana could easily be a character unengaged or seemingly unaffected, even bored. Ms. Lemp encapsulates the qualities necessary to capture the experience of this emotion story by electrifying the energy and focus needed to lure us into her journey. Witnessing her Joana, one can’t help but feel the weight of the world compressing their whole being while they drift through the inescapable dull longing of existence.
Lisa Giobbi (Narrator, Mother, Aerial Dancer) is a delightful surprise. It is a shame that Ms. Giobbi’s aerial work is tucked off to the side, as it is a stunning visual and physical metaphor and a genius theatricalization of the feminine voyage and its corruptions.
Jessica Sofia Mitrani’s Video Design paints a powerful landscape, drifting in and out of the proverbial spotlight while flowing ever-present and persistent in flavour. Notably, Ms. Mitrani collaborated with Hailey De Jardins on the costumes, which speak their own language in striking service to the storytelling.
Frederico Restrepo’s Lighting Design is a testament to the explosive expressions that can come from exploiting the challenges specific to the architecture of a space.
Overall, New Stage Theatre Company’s production is a successful attempt to stage the work of arguably one of the most prolific literary voices of the Twentieth Century. Where the production leaves one longing for more, there is a sense that that is the very point – an ominous wink.