February, 2012

L’Opéra de quat’sous – version Brigitte Haentjens: Une distribution de premier ordre et un travail corporel sophistiqué

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

L’opéra de quat’sous de Bertholt Brecht, dans une adaptation de Jean-Marc Dalpé, mise en scène de Brigitte Haentjens.

Brigitte Haentjens nous donne à nouveau la preuve d’une sensibilité créatrice raffinée,  quelques mois avant d’assumer officiellement ses responsabilités en tant que directrice artistique du théâtre Français du Centre national des Arts. Le résultat  est plus qu’heureux!   Après  Woyzek , programmé en 2009 (www.criticalstages.org  n. 2, 2010) et Tout comme elle (2006),  où nous avons bien compris l’importance  de son recours aux multiples  corps mouvants, stratégie qui souligne l’importance de sa formation chez Lecoq,  nous retrouvons non seulement une énorme distribution de premier ordre, mais un travail corporel extrêmement sophistiqué  dans L’opéra de quat’sous, que le public à Ottawa a pu découvrir cette semaine.

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The Curse of the Pekinese Peregrine: Gets Into the Spirit of Dinner/Murder Mystery Theatre

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Choreographed and directed by Zach  Counsil

There is a proviso with this style of entertainment: it works best when audience members are fully aware of the type of evening before them and ready to get into the spirit of the dinner theatre/murder mystery genre.

That said, the latest Eddie May mystery is highly amusing and very stylish. It is even a little mysterious, apparently. Only four members of the audience on opening night pinpointed the villain of the piece.

Set up in film-noir style and tongue in cheek throughout, The Curse of the Pekinese Peregrine is a tale of the theft of a valuable artifact (the peregrine) and incorporates bodies and blood spattered all over the place.

The show, exceptionally well directed and choreographed by Zach Counsil also includes first-class production numbers.

General organization of the evening is also very smooth. Unlike many dinner theatre shows, there are no excessively long gaps to encourage greater use of the bar.

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33 (A Kabarett): Unconvincing in Spite of Bremner Duthie’s Enormous Stage Presence and Beautiful Voice.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Conceived at the outset as  a  Fringe show , ’33 (A Kabarett) has become a  full-fledged stage production that is an on-going process where elements are added and changed as the show  travels around the country.  For the moment it is clearly a very unequal show: some moments work very well while others have difficulty establishing any theatrical presence and this is rather odd because Bremner Duthie is an artist with an enormous stage presence and  beautiful near operatic voice.

This One Man Show takes place in the ruins of a Club in Nazi Germany where real Cabaret performances took place, until the Nazi regime arrested and killed the artists.. These forms of political theatre have become legendary and have produced a longstanding theatrical tradition linked to the Weimar Republic  that has had much influence on subsequent theatre in Germany  and elsewhere.

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Undercurrents Festival of One Act Plays: Falling Open Makes a Powerful Impression.

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Falling Open is a journey into the self, after being sexually abused as a child.

The story is set in the bedroom of the main protagonist from where she takes us to the darkest recesses of her memories. Her only companion and support on this tricky and dangerous road is a doll – the only witness of her childhood drama.

It is an extremely difficult task to tell a story about such a sensitive topic. There would be nothing easier than to fall into a trap of over-acting and over-dramatization in an attempt to make the message stronger. Fortunately, this did not happen. Luna Alison showed a thorough understanding of the issue and found the courage to talk about it honestly. Even though her voice was barely  loud enough to be heard and understood, her telling of the story resounded powerfully and made a strong impression on those present.

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Undercurrents Festival of One Act Plays: And Then It Happens

Reviewed by Maja Stefanovska

I confess. I make snap judgments all the time, whether with people or shows. I know it’s not good and we should allow time to make up our minds, but I can’t help it. The truth is, I trust my instinct. Having said that, I love nothing more than being surprised and proven wrong in my judgments. The Two Little Birds’ production of and then it happens, ironically all about the tension between giving the audience what they want while still staying true to oneself, does exactly this.

The piece started with information gathered at last year’s Undercurrents and Wakefest festivals through the group’s interactive installation, The Lab, which asked participants what they liked about theatre and what they wanted to see. and then it happens starts off by choosing an answer for each of the question from The Lab and enacting them. The result is a mess. There are bits of musical theatre, a one woman show, a toy helicopter, and many other unfinished pieces.

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Undercurrents Festival of One Act Plays: WeeTube 5400 Attemps a MultiMedia Event That Frees the Audience, With Mixed Results

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

WeeTube 5400 is a multimedia performance which uses popular YouTube videos and the comments found under them for the basis of its narrative. The story seems to revolve around everybody and, at the same time, nobody in particular. Or is it so? First of all, is it a story at all?

For about 80 minutes, the actors explore weird videos posted on the popular site YouTube and interpret visitors/subscribers’ comments, in a cold and somewhat detached tone. They choose different settings for “commentators,” such as a home, research laboratory, beach, etc. Why is it so? Are they trying to tell the audience something about certain types of people, about a new generation, new time or, about anything? While the audience laughs at the profanity of the dialogues and weirdness of the videos (this type of humour always works), there is nothing under the surface of this long and repetitive play.

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Brian Friel’s Translations: Could Something Be Lost in Translation?

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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How much does cultural identity depend on language? No, this question is not sparked by Justin Trudeau’s recent musings about Quebec separation. It is about the theme at the heart of Brian Friel’s 1980 play Translations.

Set in the fictional village of Baile Beag, Ireland, in 1833, this ensemble drama can be taken at many levels — as a social history of hedge schools, the recounting of historical events shortly before the potato famine when British soldiers did create an ordnance survey map bearing anglicized place names, a description of Ireland’s transformation from rural Gaelic society to colonial nation, an attack on colonialism, a love story or a murder mystery (without a definitive answer), or a metaphor for communication..

Take it as you will, but Friel has said that Translations is “a play about language and only about language.”

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Undercurrents Festival of One Act Plays: Highway 63: The Fort Mac Show. Verbatim Theatre Tells Human Stories Behind the Stereotypes of Oil, Drugs and Desolation.

Reviewed by Maja Stefanovska

 

Even with the latest census pointing out Canadian’s migration to the West, Alberta can still sometimes seem like a wilderness, especially outside of Edmonton. Images of the adventure-hungry and young pouring to work for its oil companies abound. Yet, there’s much more to the place than meets the eye. This is exactly what Toronto’s Architect Theatre points out in Highway 63: The Fort Mac Show, set in and around For McMurray. Based on interviews with long-term residents and those passing through, Highway 63 show that, behind the stereotypes of oil, drugs, and desolation, lie very human stories.

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ArtsEmerson presents 69’s (The Shackleton Project)

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

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Photo: Phantom Limb

69°S. or The Shackleton Project, a sixty-five minute multimedia performance piece created by the touring Phantom Limb Company, brings Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 Antarctic expedition to the stage. The story of misadventure and rescue is “told” through puppets, music, dance, and images which, while impressive, occasionally leave the spectator as lost as the explorers. A program insert gives a terse description of each of the nine “tableaux,” a surprisingly ineffective and untheatrical device given the creativity of the Phantom Limb’s artistic directors Eric Sanko and Jessica Grindstaff.

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Undercurrents Festival of One Act Plays. Blue Box: Erotic Dreams More Than a Desire to Blow Things Up!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Sounds more like titillation than terrorism” stated a  Citizen  journalist, speaking about Carmen Aguirre’s book Something Fierce, now on the final list of books being considered for the CBC sponsored Canada Reads contest. Of course the book did not  show us the slinky beautiful actress, sauntering out on the stage in her jeans, her t-shirt, black hair  and long black boots. But the actress is very much there and her monologue takes us away on a revolutionary fantasy that somehow reflects the erotic dreams of a young girl more than the desire to blow up things. 

Actually Blue Box is a well written narrative  that delves into the fantasy life of the actress. And I found myself charmed by the text more than by the performance which I think the actress might have taken even further. 

Aguirre’s own life becomes the experience of a young woman involved in the Chilean resistance against Pinochet, crossing borders into Argentina, escaping the secret police, all the things we heard about after  Pinochet came to power in  1973 after Allende was murdered. At that point Chileans began fleeing to Canada and many of them settled in Ottawa, enrolled in literature courses at Carleton University, began publishing books, poetry, even opened a publishing house (Split Quotations) and became close friends of all of us interested in Latin America. Chile’s loss was our gain. They were a wonderful contribution to the literary and artistic community of Canada. Mme Aguirre was obviously very young at that point and stayed in the country to  contribute to the Pinochet resistance . I kept trying to locate her activity in all that madness that followed Allende’s death , all those events that touched us so deeply in Ottawa.

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