Rub FireBelly

By Cayley Evans

Love is perhaps one of the more ambiguous feelings. We all seek it, are hurt by it and then go looking for it again–we’re a race of masochists. How does love look when it’s unrefined and raw, no superficials like romance and commitment in the way? How does it look when it’s stripped to it’s elements: sex, violence, alcohol, sexual ambiguity and SM?

Brad Fraser’s Unidentified Human Remains and the Nature of True Love explores just that, making a re-appearance in Calgary after its debut 15 years ago. Produced by up and coming theater company FireBelly Theatre, Human Remains examines the lives and relationships of six Edmontonians while the city is in the grip of a serial killer.

“It’s about love, friendship, and what happens when it all goes wrong,” says director Abby Charchun. “It asks: how far would you be willing to go for love?”

Though performed all over the world, this production promises to be different from previous incarnations. Modernized, Charchun made several choices different to those before him. Typically, the prostitute Bonita is a dark force, but this time, Bonita’s a positive character. Why the major change?

“I made a very specific choice to twist it. As soon as I read it, that’s the feeling I got from it,” Charchun explained.

The nudity has been cut back and the focus is more on the nature of true love than the unidentified remains. But fret not, all the sexual tension, sadism and eroticism of the original remains intact.

“15 years ago, I think he wanted to stir shit up,” the director says of writer Brad Fraser. “There’s a lot of sickness in the show, [and] no holds barred with these characters.”

The play contains a great deal of violence, sadism, sex and general sickness, and back in 1989 it just wasn’t done. A decade and a half later, these things are mundane as companies are willing to be edgier. In the new millennium, to be experimental without sex and violence is not even trying. The controversy no longer lies in the shock value of the sex and violence, but in forcing audiences to ruminate on what’s traditionally considered to be icky, contemplating the nature of relations and the human psyche.

The gritty eroticism of Human Remains works just fine in 2004. In spite of, or perhaps because of its twisted plot, dysfunctional characters and exploring the things we tend to sweep under the rug, the play will make you think.

“It’s [about] stuff we don’t talk about,” explains Charchun. “The underbelly of what it means to be human, what it means to be mentally well–the darkness and the lightness. The need to be loved, the need to connect, the need to be told that you’re loved, the need to be forgiven when you’ve done something wrong, it’s all that.”

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