Glenn is one of those selfish plays that wants all your attention at all times. This show takes each audience member and implants them in Glenn Gould’s brain, then challenges them by forcing their minds to keep up with his.
Written by David Young and directed by Diana Leblanc, Glenn is a meticulous portrayal of Gould in every mental stage of his life, being The Puritan (Brent Carver), The Performer (Mike Ross), The Perfectionist (Steven Sutcliffe) and The Prodigy (Jeff Lillico). These stages exist both separately and simultaneously. We see Gould as the young child, enamoured by music that diverged from the mainstream, writing scores in his head. We see him recording the Goldberg Variations and growing to become the beloved and envied musician we know him as. We see his fear of audiences and his crucial, yet unattainable, desire for complete control.
The show is a bit lengthy and could benefit from a little bit of tightening here and there. It is definitely a mental workout. You feel amazing by the end of the show; all the pieces fit together and you have completed the puzzle of Gould’s life, but throughout the workout, you need to bring your A game.
The narrative is anything but chronological; the audience carefully tries to piece together all of the moments of Gould’s life, as each of the four versions of Gould mingles and intertwines with the others. That is the most striking aspect of this text. Structurally, it is Gould himself – unorthodox, complex, and unique.
To a man like Gould, pop culture and fame are the enemy. He valued living in solitude and could tap into his own consciousness – a talent that aided him in his musical success. He didn’t need an instrument to practice; he could practice in his head. And more shockingly, he could play and conduct simultaneously.
Choreographer Monica Dotter crafts some shiver-inducing, picturesque moments on stage. The play opens with the four versions of Gould as one entity that breaks apart. The entities haunt each other throughout, displaying contemporary, abstract movement. Whether it be all four entities conducting music simultaneously, or a terrifyingly beautiful display of Gould convulsing on the floor, each piece of movement contributes to the psychological spiral that is Glenn.
With this intricate text and talented group of artists, Soulpepper presents a story that makes you proud to be Canadian. Gould is a Torontonian icon who is not only relevant now, but will be able to awe audiences far into the future.
Glenn is playing at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts until October 4 th. For tickets and more information, visit www.soulpepper.ca.
photo credit: Cylla von Tiedemann