Cipher – Vertigo Theatre

On Theatre Thursdays, I discuss topics related to theatre. I also write about local productions that I think #yyc should see. Today I’m talking about a show that I was supposed to see almost two years ago – Vertigo Theatre’s Cipher.

vertigo theatre cipher
Poster lovingly stolen from Vertigo Theatre. Credit to Tim Nguyen.

Cipher was originally set to open just a few days after what almost everyone I talk to cites as the “start” of the pandemic in Canada. (March 13, 2020, if you were wondering. Though there were cases in the time leading up to this, March 13 is when everything really came crashing down around us.) And, yes, I had tickets to opening night.

Almost two years later on January 20, I had tickets to opening night once again. And, yes, it was well worth the wait.

So, what’s Cipher all about?

There are lots of articles around that talk about the plot of Cipher and I’m not going to do that here. Better reviewers than I have already done that work and you know I’m not here to be helpful. Only emotional.

And the thing is, though it has a great plot crafted by Ellen Close and Braden Griffiths, I would argue that Cipher is about the experience, not the story. This story is a story meant to be told as a play. No other art form would do it justice. A good portion of the story is told entirely through choreography – some narrated and some not. I admit that it took me most of the opening sequence to “get” that it was choreography (I couldn’t understand why The Beacon Hill Body [Kaleb Tekeste] was moving the way he was), but once I got it, I was hooked. The choreography adds to the sense of mystery, obfuscating reality in the symbolic, and allows the characters that Grace [Ellen Close] imagines to populate the Beacon Hill mystery be ever present.

I also have to shout out the set and lighting design by Narda McCarroll. It is easily transformed and visually striking, allowing the actors to weave through different settings or moods in an instant. It is especially successful when paired with the sound design by Torquil Campbell and projection design by Jamie Nesbitt in order to establish the digital world that Grace and Ameen [Antoine Yared] navigate through.

Should I see Cipher?

Y’all should know by now that I only write about shows that you should see. Cipher is not what you think of when you think of Vertigo Theatre, but it is both thrilling and enthralling. You’ll want to talk about it with your seatmates after you leave. The show runs until February 13th and tickets can be purchased by visiting their website or calling (403) 221 3708. Do it, yo!

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