December, 2015

Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 Light up the Theatre.

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

245 The company Evgenia Eliseeva     

   848 Den ¬e Benton (Natasha) Evgenia Eliseeva

Photos: Evgenia Eliseeva/American Repertory Theater

Mimi Lien’s extraordinary set for Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 plays a vital role in the success of this beautiful production. Cambridge’s Loeb Drama Center remade its playing area expanding the idea of theatre in the round into immersive theatre where performers mingle with the audience. This musical piece is set in a cabaret where every audience member is a guest. A minority of the public sits at tables in front of, to the side of, behind, and on the stage, sometimes joined by actors playing a scene. The predominant playing area has several levels. For most of the show Pierre, at times with musicians, at others alone, is in a prominent sunken circular space where he plays the piano, sings, and berates himself. A similar space holds a group of audience members. The larger public shares the theatre proper with performers, particularly the ensemble who at times race up and down the stairs, while singing and playing instruments, and stopping to perform, especially dance, on specially built platforms.

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Freezing : Canadian answer to the British Panto aimed at a younger audience.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Courtesy of Matt Cassidy

British Pantos are not unknown to Ottawa audiences. Ross Petty and his super-slick group of dancers, singers, actor’s choreographers and writers of witty dialogue used to bring us their special versions of fairy tales to brighten our Christmas fun. These tales, reworked to fit the contemporary taste for parody, satire, and all kinds of naughty suggestions for the whole family that respected the particular conventions of the Panto, were regular features at the National Arts Centre. Then suddenly they stopped coming and we never understood why.

Now producers Matt and Sarah Cassidy have decided to bring back their version of the family panto to Ottawa and take up the lost tradition which Ross Petty and his collaborators introduced here many years ago. This company is made up of professionals who have been working in Toronto but many of them are originally from Ottawa. They have decided to make Ottawa their home as they work out their vision of what these new Pantos could be. Freezing is an example of this new musical narrative aimed at the whole family but drawn from childhood memories about living through cold Canadian (Ottawa) winters and revelling in the snow, the ice, hockey, and all the winter activities that made life so magical.

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Jane Eyre: an adaptation of the novel that translates verbal description into spacial artistry”

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo from the site of  Front Row Centre.

The National Theatre of London’s adaptation of Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre that reached us live by satellite recently was the result of a collective effort on the part of all the actors, so we were told during interviews conducted during the intermission.  Ultimately, it was  Sally Cookson who imposed the final directorial choices,  intent on emphasizing the strength of this legendary heroine, who survived çruel  treatment at the hands of her “step” family .

The play opens with the birth of little Jane who is passed on to her Aunt  upon the death of her uncle and from that point on, much attention is focussed on  the aggression and meanness to which she was subjected as a young girl. Madeleine Worrall as Jane Eyre in this early portion of the play purses her lips, squints, tightens her facial muscles and shows us what a tough little creature she is becoming  as she swallows the insults, the taunting, and  vicious behaviour of her cousins and aunt who toss her off  though she were some filthy Cinderella. The fable becomes an  adult horror story  that allows our heroine to rise out of the emotional rubble and establish her own strong presence as a mature woman.

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Ottawa StoryTellers Weave Enchanting Tales

Reviewed by Maja Stefanovska

Photo courtesy of the Ottawa StoryTellers

Photo courtesy of the Ottawa StoryTellers

Once upon a time, at the very beginning of human time itself, long before we learned how to write, we told stories. Throughout history, oral stories were an important way of passing down information and a to understand the world. The drive to create, understand, and connect is one of the facets that makes us human and storytelling lets us express that desire. It is, therefore, a universal expression of our humanity. The Ottawa StoryTellers have been around for decades and exist to promote the art of storytelling in the community. Their 2015-2016 Speaking Out/Speaking In debut show, A Winter Tale: The Journey of the Blind Harper, tells of Turlough O’Carolan, Ireland’s famous blind harper of the 18th century. Written by Laurie Fyffe, Kim Kilpatrick and Emily Pearlman and performed by Kim Kilpatrick, Emily Pearlman and harpist Lucile Brais Hildesheim, the story enchants and delivers a cozy evening that spirits us away to far off lands, a long time ago.

A well-crafted story enchants us into its world. It seduces the audience to seamlessly blend their reality and its fiction into one experience. A good story teller sets the atmosphere, but allows the audience to build the sets, cast of characters, and add any details omitted from the telling. This can be overwhelming for the story tellers, but it can be just as intense for the audience. Both, in a sense, are laid bare on the stage. They have nothing to hide behind – no theatrical or technical tricks to hide behind; just words, and imagination.  (more…)

Les Reines de Normand Chaurette: on retient surtout le merveilleux travail des comédiennes.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Un décor gris de désolation  balayé par un vent ronflant qui glace le sang… On entend la tempête qui fait rage, et des lambeaux de tissus, pendus sur un alignement de châssis peints, laissent deviner de fantomatiques créatures, rongées par le désir le plus viscéral du pouvoir. Les six figures féminines font leur apparition et nous projettent aussitôt dans un paysage mental inquiétant. Une création efficace, vu la difficulté du texte, et l’expérience limitée de ces jeunes actrices, inscrites au programme de formation  théâtrale à l’Université d’Ottawa.
Conçu par Normand Chaurette, dramaturge et romancier québécois, (le seul qui ait eu les honneurs de la Comédie-Française), cette pièce, collage d’extraits de Titus Andronicus, Henri VI, Richard II, et surtout Richard III de Shakespeare, regroupe des femmes qui ont joué un rôle important dans l’histoire anglaise, telle que l’a vue William Shakespeare.
L’auteur transforme cette  représentation historique en matière psychique, ce qui change évidemment la vision que l’on a de ces femmes à la scène,  alors qu’ici on ne voit jamais les hommes… Le roi Édouard IV se meurt, et les reines attendent la suite. Ici, elles font le tour de la scène dans une attente quasi-hystérique, déchirent  la syntaxe, et crachent leur rage, leur jalousie et leur désespoir, puisque leur avenir repose, malgré tout, entre les mains des hommes!

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Winnie-the-Pooh: The Radio Show: strong performances by the voice actors.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Laurence Wall in Winnie-the-Pooh-The Radio Show

Photo: William Beddoe.  Lawrence Wall as the narrator.

From the 1920s through the 1940s and beyond, families regularly clustered around floor radios — the main source of electronic entertainment in pre-television days — to hear their favourite dramas. Their imaginations took flight, as the characters they heard (and saw in their minds’ eyes) transported them to new worlds.

One of the earliest of those places was the 100 Acre Wood — first presented by the BBC in a Christmas Day broadcast in 1925. The Wood was the home of Winnie the Pooh, the chief character in A.A. Milne’s classic children’s stories. (The inspiration for Pooh was the teddy bear that belonged to Christopher Robin, the author’s son, and several of the other animals who appear in the tales lived in Christopher’s toy box with the bear.)

Following its tradition of seasonal radio shows, Plosive Productions moves its version of stories of Winnie-the-Pooh and friends, adapted by David Whiteley, to North America. Eeyore the gloomy donkey, for example, is given a Southern drawl, apparently to make him sound even gloomier.

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Winnie-the-Pooh: A Retreat Into Nostalgia

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Chris Ralph & David Gerow in Winnie-the-Pooh-The Radio Show.

Photo: William Beddoe.  Chris Ralph (Winnie) and David Gerow (Eeyore)

There’s something decidedly inviting about the shared pleasure of spending time with Winnie The Pooh and his friends.

So you’re conscious of a strong sense of community when you arrive at the Gladstone Theatre for Plosive Productions’ latest Christmas bow to the glory days of radio.

In this instance, it’s a simple matter of audience members engaging in a special way with the people at the microphones. And the task of Winnie-the-Pooh: The Radio Show is to recreate through voice and a bit of body language the magical world created by author A.A. Milne in his Pooh Bear tales.

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Winnie the Pooh The Radio Show brings cheerful confusion, expressive voices and a great classic to the stage.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

poohshowDoreen Taylor-Claxton, Nicole Milne, Robin Guy in Winnie-the-Pooh-The Radio Show (2)

Photo: William Beddoe`

This 7th year of mainstage Radio-Shows by Plosive productions  marks the 90th anniversary of the Winnie-the-Pooh Radio show as it was first broadcast by the BBC in 1925! What a fitting coincidence for A.A. Milne’s work that has become a classic text of young people’s literature. It can now be re-experienced by the generation that grew up reading Pooh stories, and it can also be rediscovered by the internet generation who might never read him but who has no doubt seen his animated movies.

That endearing bear of “very little brain” and his cohort of pals from the 100 Acre Wood come back to amuse us with this staged reading of David Whiteley’s adaptation from the original book and excerpts taken from the later (1929) version of the radio script. The original radio script was based on portions of articles and poems that the author first published in journals and magazines, before bringing all the written work together in his book in 1926.

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GCTC’s Angel Square — A Buoyant Delight

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Photo: Barb Gray

On one level, GCTC’s sterling production of Angel Square might seem to offer no more than a series of impressions of a particularly beguiling kind.

But they’re impressions that beautifully evoke another time and place — Lowertown Ottawa in the 1940s. And out of them there emerges a delightful stage work of genuine shape and substance.

It’s through the prism of an observant youngster named Tommy that these moments unfold. Even if we weren’t actually there ourselves, we find ourselves engulfed in his childhood world. And its components resonate with us today.

It’s a world of Woolworth stores — remember them? — with creaking wooden floors. Of Ottawa’s majestic Union Station, now an underused government conference centre, but in this production exerting a ghostly remembrance of things past, courtesy of designer Jock Munro.

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GCTC’s Angel Square brings the good and the bad of post-war Ottawa to audiences

Reviewed by Kat Fournier

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Photo: Barb Gray

Solve the crime and win the girl’s heart, all in time for Christmas. Superficially, Angel Square presents a sweet holiday yarn, but just below the surface we get a glimpse at race politics through the eyes of children, and a hopeful depiction of Ottawa’s working class heritage. Brian Doyle’s classic novel by the same name is newly adapted and directed by Janet Irwin. The production recounts twelve-year-old Tommy’s memory of Lowertown, Ottawa (Ontario, Canada, Planet Earth, The Universe) in 1945. It is the first Christmas after World War II and the impact of the war—from war rations to a sense of post-war relief—peppers the script, while anti-Semitism rears its ugly head.

Tommy (played by Bruce Spinney) is gutted that his best Jewish friend, Sammy, has left town. Sammy’s father has been badly beaten up and sent to a hospital in Kingston. Inspired by his superhero idol, The Shadow, Tommy is determined to find the ‘bad guy’. Stylistically, this production rides the line between being a memory play and youth theatre. Janet Irwin’s adaptation maintains Tommy’s role as the narrator of the story, while thrusting him inside the action of the play as he recalls the events leading up to Christmas.

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Past Reviews