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Q&A with MDLSX

Thursday 25th, January 2018 / 14:31

A scandalous theatrical trip…

Photo by Renato Mangolin

CALGARY – How do you not choose gender, or even be defined by it, but just be?  Life stories, home video, queer culture, performance art, academia, androgyny and music combust into a pulsating and explosive hymn to the freedom of being, where fiction and autobiography collide. Boundary blurring, genre-defining, visually ravishing.

MDLSX is an explosive sound device, a lysergic and solitary hymn to the freedom of becoming; to gender b(l)ending; to being other than the borders of the body, skin color, sexual organs; being other than an imposed or acquired nationality, a belonging to a Fatherland.

MDLSX tends towards the spilling out of all categories, even artistic ones. It is a “scandalous” theatrical trip that Silvia Calderoni carries out with a new format conceived as an eccentric DJ/VJ set.

— High Performance Rodeo


I understand MDLSX was inspired or loosely based on Jeffrey Eugenides’ 2002 novel, Middlesex. How much or what parts does the production draw from?

Middlesex is a wonderful novel crossing time and space. I as a playwright, found among the many pages of the novel some suggestions that fit Silvia’s story and her appearance and we mixed these suggestions with some very important writings in gender studies and Silvia’s true story, with the support of some videos shot during her childhood and adolescence…

So, the Eugenides’ novel did inspire us. It was a good starting point to go deeper and deeper in intimate but at the same time universal matters. But I don’t think knowing the literature we used as inspiration is essential to understand the show. It stands on its own, it speaks by itself.

How much, if any, is MDLSX Silvia Calderoni’s story, her personal experience? If so, is there any there specific conjuncture in her life that she lived through or was at that most vital or significant to MDLSX? 

The theme of gender has always been crucial for Silvia since her teenage. After ten years of work with her, with a series of ambiguous characters – like Ariel in Shakespeare’s The Tempest or Antigone -, we felt it was the moment to focus on her story, on her androgyny and her strong physicality with a solo…

We like to define the work as post-biographic. The limit between Silvia’s biography and Calliope’s is rare, vague, confused. The re-writing we made plays exactly on this. The videos projected during the show are private family videos. The story Silvia acts every night is not hers on the events level, but it is hers on the level of feelings. The important point is that the elements from Silvia’s life should not be gratuitous signs, but part of one only dramaturgy.

The audience exits the theatre wondering to what extent it is fiction and to what extent it is reality. And we like leaving the audience free to hypothesize, believe, overturn.

Like the book, is MDLSX a journey through a period of history or stages in the protagonist’s life?

MDLSX is indeed a sort of “road trip” for the protagonist, most of all MDLSX mirrors the “motus” that always animated us: Motus is a Latin word meaning movement, transformation, physical motion, but also “motion of thought”… The idea of movement involves all aspects of artistic actions. In MDLSX, this fact is made clear by the variety of expressive formats that are used. Every new project is a way to discover, is a journey.

Can you describe briefly, perhaps with a couple of examples, how the production visually sonically explores gender identity?

This is an interesting question because of course for us the usage of various technical devices is never decorative, but it is a substantial part of the show. MDLSX is dramaturgically orchestrated in all its parts (text, music, technique use, body and voice) and each one is inevitably coincident with the other. The theme of gender identity is explored through this organic orchestration.

The sound (both meaning music and ambient recording, noise…) has always been a fundamental dramaturgical element for Motus, but in MDLSX we worked in a different way than usual. We started from the idea to use the DJ-set as a scenic device asking Silvia to propose an “emotional” soundtrack of hers, linked to specific moments of her life, which Enrico manipulates live with various effects… The playlist is a dramaturgical frame where, along with the very various music, theoretical audios and family videos are inserted.

Music from The Smiths, Talking Heads, REM, the Stooges and Yeah, Yeah Yeahs are part of the soundtrack. Could you comment why these artists or any particular song of theirs was used? 

The soundtrack was curated by Silvia and Enrico. During the creation process they collected many tracks that in some way have marked Silvia during the course of her life and they got to a selection of those which could best intertwine with the live text of the show, adding a further level of writing and therefore of reading for the spectator. The texts of the songs are not casual either, we tried to make them adhere to moments that coincided with a special emotion. For this reason we chose to project the songs titles on the screen, this way a further biographical plan is created.

The audience that has or intends to experience MDLSX, what do you feel they have or might walk away with? 

We see the performance as a hymn to joy, to freedom to be what you want to be, no limits, no categories, no prejudices… only roads to travel by hitchhiking aimlessly just for the fun of going and meet the other, and meet yourself. What we want to leave to the audience is this feeling of positivity and freedom, the best would be if every person got out of the theatre a bit more open and keen to welcome the world in all its wonderful variety, however quaint it may be.


MDLSX is part of this year’s High Performance Rodeo, and run from Thursday, Jan. 25 to Saturday, Jan. 27 at Theatre Junction GRAND.

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