Among the most ambitious productions at Toronto’s Summerworks Performance Festival is The God that Comes, starring nationally renowned pop-rock star Hawksley Workman. Billed as a "work-in-progress," The God that Comes has its Toronto premiere Saturday Aug. 11, at the Theatre Centre and, if all goes well, fans will lose themselves in the revelry of it all.
“It’s a one-man rock 'n' roll cabaret show and I’m that one man on the stage,” Workman explains. “What we’re trying for is a real visceral, guttural experience because rock 'n' roll is all below the chin. It’s all heart and loins, so it’s that type of show.”
A collaborative effort between Workman and respected theatre director Christian Barry, The God that Comes is a retelling of the Greek myth of Dionysus, known as Bacchus to the Romans, the god of wine, ritual madness and ecstasy. It uses Euripides’ The Bacchae as a primary source for its loose storyline. Barry suggested almost a decade ago that a collab with Workman might be a fine idea, but it took time to find the right vehicle. Something about Bacchus clicked with both men, and Workman views this piece as a boon for music culture.
“Rock 'n' roll fans know what that communal experience of being in a room and being washed over with volume and sweat [is like],” he says. “What is it about that experience that keeps people coming back? What keeps live music special? In a way, it’s almost more that this piece is about the acknowledgment and celebration of the very fact that we humanoids keep coming back for this opportunity to have this experience and expression together. It doesn’t seem to get old.
“We’re living in a time where there’s more security, austerity and control, but the myth of Dionysus really was a celebration of that letting go, that communal, bodily burst that really is encapsulated in the essence of why rock 'n' roll still hasn’t died.”
Workman has been diligently preparing for the show by immersing himself in the songs and music written for the piece. Asked if The God that Comes has him conjuring up his inner Bacchus, he is coy but thoughtful. “Only insofar as I’m a bit of a ‘none or nine’ person. I’m either none drinks or nine drinks, none sugars or nine. So, in that way, I have a reckless side to me."
Of the show's core message, Workman says: “In the end, I don’t think there’s a clear message here except that humans need to have a reckless moment, a moment of release. If you stay all pent up, one day the hinges will blow off and you’ll do something dangerous. This is what the real question is. If you engage in a healthy relationship with abandon, I think your life is a subtle, happy thing. When you refuse yourself that, it doesn’t seem healthy or sane.”
HW To hear the full conversation, you have two options. You can download an MP3 here if you just right-click and “Save target as.” Or to stream it, press play.
See The God that Comes, starring Hawksley Workman, at the Theatre Centre on Saturday, Aug. 11, as part of the Summerworks Performance Festival in Toronto.
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on Aug 10, 2012