TW Talks Tuesday: An Interview With Grant Cartwright

Robert Lepage and Marie Brassard’s Polygraph is performed by Grant CartwrightLachlan Woods and Emily Thomas. The play is an exploration of truth, perception and how the lines between the two are often blurred and constantly changing.

Cartwright plays David, a criminologist who worked on the unsolved murder at the heart of the story. But, he also has a haunted past of his own.

GC: David escaped the German Democratic Republic (GDR) six years before the play opens. He is a man caught between two countries, two ideologies, two worlds and two women and he must confront these opposing forces within himself. He has created a new life in Quebec City while still being very much affected by what and who he has left behind in East Berlin.

Apart from the intriguing nature of the play, the opportunity to work on Polygraph with OpticNerve Performance Group and their Pulse approach to performance was an opportunity he could not pass up.

GC: The time is dangerously ripe for the politics of this play so that immediately demands my attention. Regarding David, he appears very measured and methodical on paper, but I could tell there was a secret underbelly to this man that I would be able to fully explore through the Pulse approach.

Tanya Gerstle, Artistic Director of OpticNerve and director of Polygraph, is behind the creation of the Pulse approach for performance making. It takes a physical perspective to staging narrative texts which allows actors to find ways of telling the story through their physicality and actions.

GC: I’ve worked with Tanya and OpticNerve many times and I’m never disappointed by just how much life is jolted into the character by the time we give the play over to audience. Pulse requires a general bypass of the rational mind and is very physically demanding and so prepping for David required me to hit the gym for equal parts fitness and strength.

GC: I also started to read about the world, about the GDR and devoured personal stories from people living in East Germany and those who had escaped by the most daring and incredible feats to experience a freedom that had been denied to them. Right now, I’m watching the German series Deutschland 83 to keep fuelling David’s world and also to lighten things up a little as now that we have had our preview shows, I’m discovering that David can be quite fun.

With the Pulse approach in mind, Cartwright is confident that audiences are in for a unique theatrical experience in Polygraph.

GC: Creating work in the way we do has made what I call the anti-Polygraph. When Robert Lepage made the technical marvel that was the original production, his budget, brain and resources allowed for an incredible technology driven visual feat. We have done the same thing but with zero technological accomplishments of that scale. The body is imagination in our production, it is a high-octane physical marvel, a total visceral experience supported by a production design of similar energy. What Lepage solved with technology we have solved with limbs, skin and sweat. It’s exciting, sexy and dangerous. Just how I like it.


Read more about Polygraph here.

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