Patrick Langston writes: Isn’t the play the thing after all?

News from Capital Critics Circle

Published on: April 27, 2015
THE OTTAWA CITIZEN

NOTE: This opinion by Patrick Langston does not necessarily represent the opinion of the CCC site as a whole.

Maybe it’s time we just got the show on the road.

If you’re a habitué of English live theatre in Ottawa, you may be as fed up as are some other audience members by the conventions that, on opening nights, precede the moment actors actually take the stage.

Those conventions involve words of welcome, and usually not just a few, by an artistic director or other representative. The chats almost never offer insight into the show and, with the odd exception, have become so generic as to be meaningless.

At the National Arts Centre, the welcome extends to recognition of Algonquin Elder Annie Smith St. George and her family when they are in the audience. She has helped guide NAC English Theatre’s fostering of Indigenous programming. Also recognized is the fact that the NAC is on “unceded Algonquin territory.”

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Who Killed Spalding Gray? revels in truth, untruth and what lies between

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

So who did kill Spalding Gray, the American monologist who died in 2004? Considering that he committed suicide by jumping off the Staten Island Ferry in New York, you’d think the question unnecessary.

Turns out the question is very much necessary according to Daniel MacIvor’s disarmingly idiosyncratic solo show about himself, Gray, a guy called Howard, and some pretty big issues including death, self-forgiveness and truth.

Principal among those issues is truth. The question of who killed Gray is, after all, a question about the truth, metaphoric or otherwise, of what happened, and as MacIvor makes clear, certainty about any situation or person is a moving target. While that’s hardly a stop-the-presses insight, the ways in which the playwright frames that target make for a fine 85 minutes.

The show, directed by Daniel Brooks, is a skein of stories and enacted pieces that link MacIvor, Gray and Howard in progressively inextricable fashion.

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Who Killed Spalding Gray: MacIvor in a labyrinth of shifting identities.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo, courtesy of the Edmonton Journal.

About one hour and twenty minutes elapse, just enough time to give the public a chance to see that Daniel MacIvor is a masterful story teller who holds the audience’s undivided attention, to the point where you can hear a pin drop. And it almost doesn’t even matter what MacIvor is saying because his natural demeanor and relaxed manner are so disarming, we fall quickly under his spell. This is verbatim theatre, but then it’s also MacIvor being MacIvor, using all his tried and true stage strategies such as his reading, to the audience, a negative review by Robert Cushman that hurt, or doing one of his unexpected interviews with the audience. In fact he invites a young man at the front to come on stage and answer a few questions. This is not a plant! It’s authentic. The young man happened to work in the ticket office and the actor asked him questions that in fact, gave us a resumé of the play. That prologue was clever and when the audience was ready, away went the actor with his own narrative.

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Century Song/Le chant du siècle: on reste sur sa faim devant ce dialogue fascinant entre la voix humaine, des percussions, un piano et des moyens visuels ultra-raffinés:

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Soprano Neema Bickersteth. Photo John Lauener

Cette production multidisciplinaire, une création mondiale, a marqué l’ouverture du festival culturel annuel promu par le Centre national des Arts à Ottawa. Cette année, « la scène d’Ontario » est à l’honneur. Parmi les 90 événements prévus, dont la danse de toutes les origines, les « arts médiatiques » ainsi qu’une grande variété de musiques classiques, populaires et traditionnelles, il y aura des rencontres littéraires (anglophones et francophones) et une quinzaine de spectacles de théâtre.

Le chant du siècle nous ramène aux expériences scéniques et musicales de John Cage sauf que cette contenu est autre. L’unique artiste en scène, la soprano Neema Bickersteth, une figure sobre, jeune et filiforme, dont la belle voix d’opéra, puissante et dramatique est le socle dramatico-musical de la soirée. Sans paroles, le spectacle nous raconte par des images, l’histoire de la femme noire au Canada. Appuyée par des paysages filmés, des intérieurs qui se transforment à vue d’œil, tous les effets visuels indiquent la remontée dans le temps à travers les proscéniums qui encadrent l’espace de jeu. Dans ce contexte, la soprano adopte une gestualité inspirée de la danse moderne afin d’indiquer l’évolution des rapports entre cette femme et son milieu socio-culturel. Grâce à un sens de théâtre hérité des spectacles de John Cage, du jeu transgressif de Mauricio Kagel qui subvertit tous les instruments qui lui tombent sous la main, et un texte d’Alice Walker (À la recherche des jardins de nos mères), l’équipe du Volcano Theatre a réussi un événement d’une excellente qualité visuelle et musicale.

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Richard III de Brigitte Haentjens. : Une créature archaïque qui émerge des bas-fonds de l’humanité.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photos du Théâtre du nouveau monde.

Brigitte Haentjens, l’actuelle  directrice artistique du Théâtre français au Centre national des Arts à Ottawa,  produit, depuis fort longtemps, une esthétique de la souffrance en puisant dans des consciences troublées.  Depuis 1999, elle accompagne l’immigrant de Koltès (la Nuit juste avant les forêts) attaché à la voie ferrée  hurlant  son désespoir et sa solitude.  Elle offre  la scène  à Malina, personnage d’Ingeborg Bachmann, hanté par le cauchemar d’un père, ancien Nazi, qui chercherait à exterminer  sa fille dans  la chambre à gaz. Elle suit la descente vers la mort de la poétesse Sylvia Plath (The Bell Jar), hantée par l’image d’un père  qui  alimente son impulsion suicidaire, sans oublier le calvaire d’Ian (Blasted de Sarah Kane)  au moment de la guerre en Yougoslavie. 

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The Double: from Dostoevsky to Adam Paolozza…!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo from the Tarragon Theatre.

A great mastery of physical theatre sets Bad News Days Productions apart. Done as a play within a play in various times zones but originating in the present, it resembles a cabaret performance where three very talented young men perfectly trained in the art of mime, circus techniques, mimicry, tell the story of a Mr. Golyadkin, a simple office clerk who lives by himself, who has strange, troubled dreams , who is stressed by the behaviour of his office colleagues who appear to make fun of him; There is also the behaviour of his fiancé who breaks off their wedding. Is he really fleeing from himself? Is he so totally alone, abandoned by all humanity?. Perhaps, but Golyadkin continues on bravely. He eventually comes in contact with his pesky double –his shadow on the wall, or is it the other narrator playing the acoustic bass who appears to be feeding him his lines? This double taunts the older fellow, he disappears and reappears, he interferes with his office relations, and he shows up the older Golyadkin until the poor man can’t take it anymore. It all takes place under the stress of the terrible Kafka-like bureaucracy in Saint Petersburg in Russia. A medical doctor comes into the picture (no psychiatry at that

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Man and Superman : G.B.Shaw playing at the local Cineplex theatres, May 14.

News from Capital Critics Circle

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National Theatre Live….with Ralph Fiennes

Un obus dans le coeur » : mort et renaissance dans le silence de la mère

News from Capital Critics Circle

  Commentaire de Roland Sabra, paru dans Madinin-art.net   Une publication de la Martinique.

obus_ds_le_coeurC’est un moment d’émotions d’une rare intensité que nous a offert Hassane K. Kouyaté en programmant Un obus dans le coeur, le magnifique texte de Wadji Mouawad interprété par Julien Bleitrach qui signe la mise en scène avec Jean-Baptiste Epiard. C’était une nuit. Une nuit de rage. Une tempête sur la ville et dans la tête. Il neigeait et elle agonisait sur un lit d’hôpital.   Le téléphone avare de mots avait juste lancé : « Viens vite !  » Elle ? La mère ! Lui, Wahab le fils se dit : « Ma mère meurt, elle meurt, la salope, et elle ne me fera plus chier ! »» mais aussi : « Le clignement de mes yeux fait fondre le givre de mes cils et c’est l’hiver au complet qui pleure sur mon visage « . Même attendue, la mort est toujours une surprise. Elle survient au détour d’un chemin. « Nawal. J’étais dans l’autobus. Sawda, j’étais avec eux! Quand ils nous ont arrosés d’essence j’ai hurlé :  Je ne suis pas du camp, je suis comme vous! Je cherche mon enfant qu’ils m’ont enlevé! Lors ils m’ont laissée descendre, et après, après, ils ont tiré, et d’un coup, d’un coup vraiment, l’autobus a flambé, il a flambé avec tous ceux qu’il y avait dedans, il a flambé avec les vieux, les enfants, les femmes, tout! Une femme essayait de sortir par la fenêtre, mais les soldats lui ont tiré dessus, et elle est restée comme ça, à cheval à cheval sur le bord de la fenêtre, son enfant dans ses bras au milieu du feu et sa peau a fondu, et la peau de l’enfant a fondu et tout a fondu et tout le monde a brûlé! Il n’y a plus de temps, Sawda. Il n’y a plus de temps. Le temps est une poule à qui on a tranché la tête, le temps court comme un fou, à droite, à gauche et de son coup décapité, le sang nous inonde et nous noie. » (Incendies).

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The Hard Problem: Challenging, Amusing and Intelligent but not Stoppard at his best.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo by John Persson .  Olivia Vinall as Hilary.

As patrons shuffled out of the Cineplex theatre in Ottawa Thursday evening, after th NTL showing of The Hard Problem, the new play by Tom Stoppard, his first play since 2006 (Rock’n Roll) and the first for the National Theatre since his Trilogy The Coast of Utopia in 2002, the general impression seemed to be exactly what was mentioned in the title of Michael Billington’s review , published in “the Guardian” January 29: “the work occasionally suffers from information overload”, something which would not be difficult to document, especially if one had the text on hand . Clearly without the text, most of the details of the arguments are difficult to retain.

As well, the vocabulary is always taken from areas of specialisation as they are bantered back and forth by these scientists who are all specialists in their own fields: cognitive science which is questioned as a science, evolutionary or behavioural biology; genetics, analysis of the brain are linked to science as opposed to the study of the mind. The study of the mind is not a science whereas the study of the brain is linked to human biology and is a science. If this is so, how does one experiment on human consciousness? How does one analyse the “mind”.which has no material substance? Later the question arises related to the fact that materialsm is a philosophy, does that mean it can be put in the same category as the belief in God? Is that scientific?  And the ideas roll round in the laboratory and board rooms of the KROHL institute of Brain Science where all these nine characters find themselves, employees or students in this research institute, where they are trying to define human consciousness.

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Dirty Dancing: Just sit back and enjoy!!!

Reviewed by Iris Winston

If you saw the 1987 movie, starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, then you know exactly how Dirty Dancing will play out on stage.

In many respects, the aim of the touring production currently at the National Arts Centre’s Southam Hall, seems to be to reproduce the movie — hence the many scene changes and the use of video effects to deliver fields of waving grass, watery playgrounds and, of course, projections of dancers.

Despite the note in the program that the stage show contains a number of songs that were not included in the movie version, the film trumps the stage show, primarily because on stage the flimsy nature of the dated book is more evident.

But, as long as you understand that a show whose most famous line is “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” is unlikely to have a complex and meaningful script or message and that there will be only passing references to major events of historical importance, you can just sit back and enjoy a blast of high energy, some good dancing and a couple of fine singers. Soloists Doug Carpenter and Jennlee Shallow do a particularly fine job.

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