Stratford’s A Little Night Music Could Use More Restraint

Reviewed by Jamie Portman


Photo: David Hou. Yanna McIntosh and Ben Carlson.

There’s an undeniable air of confidence in the Stratford Festival’s new production of A Little Night Music. It’s there in the sumptuous look of the show. It’s there in the assurance with which the performers meet the complex demands of Stephen Sondheim’s music and lyrics and in the sublime work of the orchestra under the baton of Franklin Brasz. And it’s there in the way the show is staged by Gary Griffin, a director who knows exactly what he wants.

But has Griffin really brought this fabled musical about mismatched relations and tangled passions to the right place, creatively and emotionally? That seems debatable, but the production now at the Avon Theatre nevertheless provides moments that do qualify for the memory books.

As always, Send In The Clowns is the song that everybody is waiting to hear. It’s very familiarity provides a comfort zone for theatre goers, especially those who are less than total cheerleaders when it comes Sondheim’s work. But how often does this song grasp us by the throat and force us to confront what Sondheim is really saying in those sad, rueful lyrics?


Cirque du Soleil coming to Ottawa!! Performance inspired by Avatar- watch for it….

News from Capital Critics Circle

Cirque du Soleil prestents TORUK-photo Errisson Lawrence

Inspired by James Cameron’s Oscar-winning film, Avatar, TORUK – The First Flight is a live action multimedia spectacle that jumps from the movie screen to bring the visually stunning world of Pandora to life through cutting-edge video technology (using 40 projectors) and large-scale puppetry mixed with Cirque’s stunning performers. TORUK follows the adventurous quest of two young Na’vi men as they encounter strange creatures and characters in ever-changing landscapes including a virtual flood cascading from waterfalls across the arena floor.

TORUK – The First Flight, at the Canadian Tire Centre from June 29 to July 3, 2016. Since its world premiere in December 2015, TORUK has been performing to sold out audiences as part of its world tour.

Festival Mayo Teatral_ Habana XVI . Triunfadela, notre UBU cubain!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Triunfadela, conception et mise en scène de Nelda Castillo, présenté à La Havane.

Ernesto Manuel Loupez

Photo: Ernesto Manuel Loupez. Comédienne: Mariela Brito.

      Le théâtre de cette  artiste cubaine, qui a fondé la troupe El Ciervo Encantado, veut être une réflexion sur les rapports entre l’art, l’histoire de son pays, les idées de l’ethnologue Fernando Ortiz, et  les questions  relatives au colonialisme et aux guerres de libération.
Au festival Mai théâtral XVI de la Havane où étaient  des spectacles de neuf pays hispanophones des Amériques, invités par la  Casa de las Americas, elle  a présenté deux spectacles: Triunfadela et Guan melón, tu melón.   Triunfadela, travail courageux et original d’un esprit libre, tient d’abord d’une parodie du réalisme socialiste, avec Alfred Jarry et Bertolt Brecht à l’appui.
La metteuse en scène s’est inspirée de documents authentiques comme des discours d’ouvriers lors de meetings où chacun impose son propre effet d’aliénation. Accompagnés de bruits de la rue, marches, hymnes avec musique officielle, ces discours constituent une bande-son hétéroclite qui évoque l’héroïsme des ouvriers. Tout cela passe par un film tourné en 1970 dans les locaux d’une entreprise, où a lieu le spectacle, alors située en face de ce même théâtre de la rue 18 du Vedado.
A l’époque, on y fabriquait des carrosseries de wagons, montées sur des châssis importés d’Union soviétique. Quelqu’un avait filmé les discussions entre les ouvriers et en avait fait ensuite un montage bizarre et chaotique de morceaux de discours, mêlées aux bruits de la rue. Le tout monté par le département-son de l’Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos, créé en 1959, deux mois après le début de la Révolution. Des sous-titres dans un mauvais anglais, vide de sens ont été ajoutés, et le tout  finit par tomber dans le ridicule le plus absolu…


Ottawa Fringe 2016: Best Picture, Grade 8 , A Tension de Detail- There is a winner here!!

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

Best Picture
RibbitRePublic (Jersey City, N.J.), Studio Léonard-Beaulne
It’s a near-breathless sprint, but they get it done: Jon Paterson, Kurt Fitzpatrick and Rachel Kent lampoon every Best Picture Oscar winner ever (80, if you’re counting) by enacting a mashed up excerpt or at least injecting a title into the show’s brisk dialogue. Part of the fun is guessing the name of the movie, say, How Green Was My Valley (1941) or Ordinary People (1980), before it’s spoken. Equally entertaining is how the trio segues from one film to the next or chucks a couple of movies into the verbal Mixmaster so that The Hunchback of Notre Dame suddenly appears aboard the 1935 version of Mutiny on the Bounty (you do know the connection between the two films, don’t you?). The show sometimes bogs down under its own cleverness, but it still manages to emerge as the kind of bright-eyed performance with zero social value that you’d find only at a fringe festival.


Ottawa Fringe 2016: Raw Footage – mission accomplished as three artists create trustworthiness, honesty and beauty.

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Raw footage is comprised of three dance pieces performed by Cathy Kyle-Fenton, Mary Catherine Jack and Nicola Henry. It is a real treat for dance lovers who like to immerse themselves in a beauty of dance moves and to be carried away by the imaginative narrative. Artists dance beautifully, showcasing their talent, strength and creativity while portraying women who struggle with their personal perception of loss, beauty and life defining light.

Cathy Kyle-Fenton is dancing partly to the faint sound of guitar and partly to the complete silence – at the beginning the only sound heard is tapping of her own feet accompanied by the rhythmic sound of her breathing. Silence adds to the drama of the story about woman who recently suffered a loss of someone close and beloved. Pain is clearly written on her face. Every move tells about battle to accept the reality in hope that they will meet again.

Mary Catherine Jack is a true comedian in a role of a woman who is not a youngster any more, and has hard time to accept the plain facts: sagging skin, wrinkled face and not so firm body. She portrays the wont-to-be sexy seductress in a naturally humorous way while preserving control and gracefulness of dance.


Ottawa Fringe 2016: Best Picture is a Treat for Oscar Buffs

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Best Picture is a cheeky romp through more than 80 years of Academy
Award winners. The script emanates from the nimble brain of Kurt
Patrick who also shares the stage with the versatile Rachel Kent and
the hilarious Jon Paterson in zipping entertainingly through decades
of Oscar history in only 60 minutes.
A warning, however: this show will work best for film buffs, Without
some knowledge of the movies themselves, you'll miss a lot of the
witty allusions. But this show from Vancouver's RibbitRePublic is
smartly conceived: it knows that even the most savvy filmgoer is
likely to know nothing about such forgotten winners as Wings or
Cavalcade, yet it's still creative enough to find ways to get them
into the mix.
With Jeff Culbert directing, the tone is one of witty irreverence —
but these people do have the good sense to show respect for
Schindler's List and they also tip-toe cautiously when it comes to
Gentlemen's Agreement. Some of the spoofing does fizzle, but in a show
like this there's always the promise of redemption seconds later —
that's how quickly it moves. So its pleasures are substantial, and
include hilarious send-ups of The Silence Of The Lambs and The King's
Speech, a mischievous pairing of the Oscar-winning Going My Way with
the horrors of The Exorcist, and a caustically funny reminder that
Marlon Brando was frequently incomprehensible in his Oscar-winning
performance The Godfather.

(Best Picture: Studio Leonard-Beaulne to June 25)

    Ottawa Fringe 2016: Miss Bruce’s War is One of a Kind.

    Reviewed by Jamie Portman

     Miss Bruce's War is not your normal Fringe entertainment. It's a new
    piece by 93-year-old Jean Duce Palmer and based on her own experience
    of teaching in a one-room school in Alberta's Cypress Hills region
    during the Second World War. It's also a student production that comes
    to the Fringe from Ottawa's Elmwood School.
    This is a memory play rather than a traditionally constructed drama.
    It's only real conflict rests in what happens when a young and
    inexperienced teacher is thrust into an alien culture and faces the
    classroom challenge of dealing with German-Canadian youngsters in a
    time of war. Yet it remains an affecting piece of theatre because of
    the quiet integrity of the script, and the evocative power of the
    playwright's memories, coupled with the responsive work of a group of
    talented youngsters under the direction of Angela Boychuk.


    Ottawa Fringe Theatre 2016: “Best Picture’” reveals the Academy Award ritual at its best!

    Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

    Best Picture created and designed by Rick Cousins, produced by RibbitRePublic Theatre Co, from Vancouver.

    We are on the red carpet with a host, a male actor and one female actor. They are going to take us on an ultra rapid journey through all 89 Academy award winning films, just to refresh our memory. The talk is glib host-style banter. They greet all the great stars as they walk in…!OH there is Judi Dench, there is so and so ..give her a hand” as the public files into the  Leonard Beaulne Studio. No doubt to give this more of an Academy award feel they should have programmed it in a bigger theatre but the three stage performers, made up for the small space with lots of vibrant energy.

    It involves taking us on a rapid fly-by history of the Academy Awards by making quick funny remarks, acting out short skits and snapping witty references about different shows, so that the titles of the shows find their way into the discussion and can be easily identified. Linked to all the Wayne and Shuster style humour (at times) there is voice and body mimicry, (Al Pacino from Rain Man was one of the great moments) there are jokes which slide between various shows so that they all make fun of each other and themselves.. as the stars connect and jostle themselves into first place. It was very rapid and sometimes we lost the sense of who was referring to what but I gather in a town like Toronto where one of the worlds biggest Film Festivals takes place, film buffs will have no trouble at all.


    Ottawa Fringe Theatre 2016: “2 For Tea” and the idea of being British!!

    Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

    2 for Tea staged by British to British with James and Jamesy, from Sussex UK.

    A new style of fringe performance where the 2 actors capture all the iconic moments,the  popular images, and the  historical references that make “Britishness”. It’s nothing more than that! But because these elements are so popular, people catch them all immediately and they roar with laughter.

    What is this “Britishness” then? It’s a cup of tea slithering out from the wings on the end of a gloved hand suggesting British Music Hall theatre,   it’s a full tea pot pouring out tea for that proverbial “Brew” on  Coronation street.  It’s even oblique references to the “tea party” in Alice in Wonderland; it’s placing the cups in exactly the perfect position on the table because it’s all about style, and good manners that become ridiculously overblown but not so for this very British show.

    It’s also about pop culture icons like Mick Jagger _with the swivelling hips and the skinny legs – ; it’s about the civilised and extremely polite Englishman with the bowler hat who epitomizes a mass of British images including financiers on Fleet street and the clowns in Beckett’s theatre; it’s about being caught in the bombing of London during the World War II, it’s about the sense of family with the elderly parents who are awaiting the end and the final voyage that brings them up to their ultimate resting place with smiling faces, the stiff upper lip and all that.


    Ottawa Fringe 2016 : Fugee Is A Show That Deserves Attention

    Reviewed by Jamie Portman

    British playwright Abi Morgan has always sought to strike a connection between the political and the personal — and her influences come from the left. She reveres the thorny lack of compromise shown over the years by a radical filmmaker like Ken Loach, and she makes no apologies about injecting unabashed polemic into her own work. But she is also so good at her craft that producers were ready to entrust her with the screenplay for The Iron Lady, a portrait of a major political figure, Margaret Thatcher, that she and her family hated.

    Morgan is, in brief, a writer worthy of attention, and Ottawa’s Third Wall Academy deserves our warmest thanks for introducing Fringe audiences to Fugee, a lacerating account of how the system is failing refugee children. In her 2008 script, Morgan was zeroing in on the British situation, but with its sense of emotional horror and hopelessness, the play’s implications occupy a wider canvas.

    The central character, Kojo, is a child from the Ivory Coast, an innocent whose once idyllic existence was brutally changed forever on his 11th birthday. When he first meet him, he has seemingly made it to safety and a new life. But he has no English and no passport, and his age is in question. Even within the security of a children’s refugee centre, the system is about to start tearing him apart — be it through latent prejudice, outright hostility, or bureaucratic indifference. And we keep being pulled back to the play’s first horrific image — of Kojo fatally knifing another youth on the street. And we keep asking why that tragedy happened.