Frog in Hand presents a dystopian journey into the deep unknown with Stories in the Woods
A mysterious walk through the cold woods at night turns into an eerie exploration into a dystopian future where climate change has rendered the world nearly unlivable. For two nights, Frog in Hand led a group of wanderers deep into the unknown where dancers utilized a haunting soundscape, the deep woods and rough terrain in the dark, and strategic lighting to illustrate a tale of what could possibly be in Stories in the Woods.
The adventure began with the audience gathering at the Small Arms Inspection Building. The space is outfitted with a series of art installations regarding human impact on the environment to set the tone for what we are about to walk into. Once all are gathered, the audience is given their instructions.
This experience takes place outdoors and participants are all encouraged to dress for the weather — proper footwear for the uneven ground that may be wet, sweater and jackets are highly encouraged. Stay together, watch where you’re going. There are guides with plenty of bright lights to ensure the path is clearly lit but just to be sure, all participants are also given their own mini flashlight.
The story begins at the Climate Research Division, Station 1352. We arrive in their compound where a group of scientists are monitoring extreme weather events with a storm quickly approaching. This storm is a strange one with readings beyond anything they’ve ever seen before. As the team head out to investigate, communication breaks down and then cuts out. What happened to them?
As we are lead deep into the woods to investigate, we meet our guides and see that much has changed in this foreign future. They don’t speak in a recognizable tongue but their meaning is clear — follow us. As we do, strange beings appear who are both friend and foe and some bear familiar faces. We see what has ultimately fallen the team of scientists from the research compound, they are far from who they were before.
Much care and attention to detail have been placed into the creation of this performance and it shows. From the timing needed for the dancers to take their places in the following scene as we run into them to their use of basic lighting and music to create haunting apparitions in the distance, the execution of each scene is immaculate and beautifully presented. I admire the dedication of the performers to not only dance outdoors in the cold wind in tank tops and shorts but for some to even dig themselves into the dirt only to crawl out and be revealed for dramatic appeal. Knowing that they did two performances a night garners more respect, hats off to them.
While discussing the performance with my friend Amber who joined me for the night, I mentioned that though this story centers around the effects of climate change, it almost feels that the scientists were exposed to a new disease when they went outside which infected them to the beings we saw on our journey. It reminds me of the movie Contagion, often described as a zombie movie without the zombies. Amber said that prior to the performance, she was reading a book on display, a collection of short stories about Toronto in the year 2033. One story investigates the idea of bacteria that is normally climate sensitive now affecting people in drastically different regions due to the extreme change in climate making this potential scenario in the performance quite possible.
Though Stories in the Woods has run its course, it will stand as an experience that neither of us will soon forget. The complete execution of this performance is simply brilliant and I look forward to their next adventure.
- Stories in the Woods ran October 4 and 5 2019 on the grounds surrounding the historic Small Arms Inspection Building (1352 Lakeshore Rd E, Mississauga).
- For more information on future dance-theatre experiences from Frog in Hand, please see their website.
Photo by Nettie Seip.