By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca
“If you watch something closely enough you realize you have no possible way of telling where it’s going or how fast it’s getting there. Did you know that?” — Heisenberg
“It’s a slippery thing,” muses Amber Borotsik. “I love it; it’s so complex. It makes me exhale (she does, like someone about to whistle), and shake my head.”
She’s talking about Heisenberg — and Georgie Burns, the mercurial character, wildly unpredictable and volatile, she plays alongside Glenn Nelson in the Simon Stephens two-hander that opens Thursday in a Shadow Theatre production. “It captivated me and scared me at the same time.”
Heisenberg, the scientific “uncertainty principle” we all remember (in my case pretty vaguely) from school, is all about randomness. The Wikipedia oracle says the idea is that you can measure the velocity or the position of a subatomic particle, but not at the same time. “The act of watching something changes it,” ventures Borotsik. She cites the user-friendly analogy provided by her partner actor/ dancer/ improv star Jesse Gervais, who’s currently in Edmonton Opera’s Candide. “If you lose your lighter between two cushions on the couch, when you reach down to find it, you’re pushing it farther away, harder to find….”
The 2015 play by the Brit writer who adapted The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, joins a cluster of hits — like David Auburn’s Proof, Tom Stoppard’s Hapgood, Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen, Nick Payne’s Constellations — that take physics into the theatre, and the laboratory of human relationships. Here, an off-centre romance is launched when, out of the blue, Alex (Glenn Nelson), a solitary, mild-mannered 75-year-old butcher of Irish origins, is suddenly kissed on the neck by a much younger, free-spirited stranger as he sits on a bench in a London railway station.
That would be Georgie, “possibly winsome and maybe psychotic” as she says of herself. She is, in a word, a handful. For actors, whose natural tendency is to apply themselves vigorously to figuring out intention in every moment of a script, Georgie is a challenge, possibly a nightmare. “Her flips, from moment to moment, even in a sentence …” Borotsik shakes her head, in wonder at the contradictions. Logic and causality have nothing to do with her, “not in any way,” says Borotsik. “Quicksilver, I like that word.”
Does Georgie have an agenda, a plan? “I don’t know that she goes into it with any intention,” muses Borotsik, who recently co-starred (with Nathan Cuckow) in another difficult two-hander, last season’s Wild Side production of Poison. “She’s beyond that, not destined for a traditional relationship in any way…. The through line is all over the place.”
“I find this play really hard, really complex, challenging in a good way. I have to ground myself. Go for a walk. Take a breath.”
Borotsik’s multi-faceted career, as an actor/dancer playwright/choreographer, has always been about marrying contemporary dance and theatre. “It’s exciting to see so many more opportunities for that,” she says. Her year has included time in Montreal working with the innovative dance company O Vertigo in a project that brought together three artists from Montreal, three (including Borotsik) from the rest of Canada and three Europeans.
In Montreal, too, Borotsik was part of a “remix project” which had choreographers play DJ with the work of other choreographers. “Mile Zero has been the driving force in connecting me with these opportunities, and mentors,” she says.
The idea of uncertainty, though not in a Heisenbergian sense, infiltrates her latest interdisciplinary “make-it-up” with Gervais. No Guesses Found, which premiered in Mile Zero Dance’s Dance Crush series (directed by Dave Horak) last April, explores, in a physical way, ideas of loss and human fragility. “We’re making it into two pieces,” says Borotsik. The first part has an ensemble backdrop (“and a candy floss machine”). In the second, No Guesses Alone, she’s alone onstage, inhabiting the bodies of other people, a kind of reverse haunting. The plan is to tour, to both dance and theatre festivals.
Mentorship figures prominently for Borotsik. She teaches movement for actors at both the U of A and MacEwan. She works with students at the Nina Haggerty Centre.
The day after Heisenberg closes, Borotsik is off to Toronto, and a Factory Theatre revival (with the original cast we saw years ago in Edmonton) of One, Jason Carnew’s re-imagining of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth. Then, immediately after that, Newfoundland, and a project with director Charlie Tomlinson, who’s adapting poetry for the stage.
Meanwhile there’s the fun of Georgie, in company with Nelson. Fun? Borotsik, a thoughtful sort, considers that possibility. “I think she’d be really loving it, to be described as a fun person. In certain moments. Absolutely.”
Written by: Simon Stephens
Directed by: John Hudson
Starring: Amber Borotsik, Glenn Nelson
Where: Varscona Theatre, 10329 83 Ave.
Running: through March 29
Tickets: 780-434-5564, shadowtheatre.org