Capital Critics' Circle
Le cercle des critiques de la capitale

Reviewing Theatre in Canada's Capital Region
La critique théâtrale de la région Ottawa-Gatineau

Belles Soeurs the musical is a winner!

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Canada, Theatre in Ottawa and the region.   ,

Belles Soeurs the Musical is at the National Arts Centre.

  • Photos, Courtesy of the National Arts Centre and the Segal Centre.

    Initially, it’s discomfiting. Here are Germaine Lauzon, her family and her pals, richly imagined characters we’ve long associated with a straight-ahead stage play, breaking into song about bingo and being free and no-good boyfriends.

    But Belles Soeurs: The Musical, which is based on Michel Tremblay’s evergreen mid-1960s tragicomedy Les Belles-soeurs, soon feels as comfortable as Germaine’s weathered kitchen where all the action takes place. And for the most part those songs work splendidly, showcasing not just some fine voices but the surging loneliness, longing and occasional sisterhood that define the lives of these working class women.

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    Notes from the International Symposium of Theatre Critics and Scholars held in Novi Sad (Serbia), 2015

    Reviewed by on    Arts News  

    Explaining the notion of “embodied criticism”.  I

    In September this year, the traditional International Symposium of Theatre Critics and Scholars, organized by Sterijino pozorje festival, in collaboration with the IATC, was held in Novi Sad (Serbia). This triennial manifestation, the oldest conference in the world that has been regularly organized under the IATC umbrella, celebrated this year an important jubilee, its fifteenth edition. A better visibility in the year of its jubilee was one of the reasons why the organizers decided to hold the symposium, for the first time in its half-century long history, not during the Sterijino pozorje festival itself (which is in May), but in September, and to link it with the international theatre festival in Belgrade, Bitef.

    When the symposium in Novi Sad finished, its participants moved to Belgrade to attend, for two more days, the programme of Bitef and to participate in a round table discussion dedicated to the position and role of critics at the international performing arts festivals. A collaboration between two major Serbian festivals, the national one (Sterijino pozorje) and the international one (Bitef), wasn’t the only collaboration upon which this edition of the Symposium was based. The other collaboration was the one between IATC and IFTR (International Federation for Theatre Research): the call for papers was announced on the web site of IFTR as well, some participants were members not of IATC but of IFTR, the keynote speaker was Professor Dr Christopher Balme from the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich (Germany), a former president of ITFR.

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    São Paulo Companhia de Dança :Extremely strong dancers do justice to all the choreographers!

    Reviewed by on    Dance   , ,

    maxresdefault Photo (promotionnelle) © (The Seasons) Édouard Lock.  Norman McLaren, Pas de deux (1968)

    The Canadian premiere of this Brazilian Dance Company – the São Paulo Companhia de Dança – at the National Arts Centre, offered three pieces each by a different choreographer. The Seasons by choreographer Edouard Lock, whose work is well known on the stages of Canada/Quebec, was no doubt the most interesting piece. As the Brazilian dancers appeared to easily grasp the emotional, the high spirited and pressing physical demands of this clash of bodies and lighting effects, The Seasons also incorporated a most exciting remix and reinterpretation of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and thus soared above the other two pieces , Mamihlapinatapai (Jomar Mesquita) and Gnawa (Nacho Duato), which almost seemed “déjà vu” in the aftermath of Lock’s tsunami that came crashing down on us with all its strength.

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    A multi-media interpretation of Büchner’s Woyzeck puts the audience into the role of clinical observer.

    Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre  

    Third Wall Theatre re-opens after a two year hiatus with renewed energy, bringing audience’s an atmospheric, deeply psychological portrayal of one of theatre’s most intriguing tragic-heroes. Director James Richardson picked a work that is close to his heart, choosing to create a production that is a personal reflection on some aspects of Georg Büchner’s masterwork, Woyzeck. This post-modern approach to what is considered the first modern drama brings audiences a living hallucination, bolstered by multi-media and casting the audience into the role of clinical observer.

    Critic Lyn Gardner summarizes the appeal of Büchner’s Woyzeck—the source piece for this performance—beautifully in her 2003 review of a production by Cardboard Citizens in London, “Büchner never even finished his play; nobody knows in what order the scenes were intended to be played. It is its plasticity that has made this 200-year-old work one of the most influential plays in contemporary drama – that, and its concentrated depiction of alienation and disassociation.” This is certainly true of Richardson’s “elastic” interpretation of the text, playing as part of the TACTICS Theatre Series at Arts Court.

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    Phoenix Theatre runs rampant in the high school “staff room”.

    Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region.   ,

    This Phoenix Theatre production called Staff Room (by Joan Burrows) is a mild crowd pleaser, definitely aimed at a niche audience. A cast of ten actors playing 55 roles carried out a non-stop whirlwind evening of skits , monologues, dialogues or exchanges with multiple actors of varying descriptions.  Each skit was an individual performance but all were linked by the fact that they all took place in the staff room of a high school where the teachers, administrators, cleaners and related employees were all involved in the business of this institution of learning. Joel Rahn responsible for media relations, stepped out on the stage before the curtain went up and asked us point blank: “How many people were/are school teachers“? A lot of hands went up. I gather that If he asked the question it was important, and we soon realized why.

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    Last Dream (On Earth): The Intimacy of the Impossible – The Truth of the Unimaginable

    Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage   , ,


    Photo: Deanne Jones

    Yana Meerzon has seen this production by the National Theatre of Scotland, presented in Romania during the XV Europe Theatre Festival   (in English with Romanian subtitles).

    In his much quoted dictum that ‘to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric’, Theodor Adorno contemplates the ethical responsibility of an artist to speak about and on behalf of the victims of the Holocaust, the 20th century’s major horror. This phrase and Adorno’s concern acquire similar echoing today when theatre, literature, film, and other media begin to seek more appropriate ways to represent the atrocities of migration, global terrorism and civil wars through arts.

    In its production Last Dream (On Earth), written and directed by Kai Fischer, The National Theatre of Scotland, a recipient of the 13th Europe Prize Theatrical Realities, XV Europe Theatre Festival, approaches this issue with all the elegance, sincerity and respect that representing the current migration crisis on stage demands.

    As the title suggests, Last Dream (On Earth) is constructed at the intersection of seemingly unrelated material: the actual transcripts of the tape-recorded communications between Yuri Gagarin and ground control that took place during his flight to space and the interviews Kai Fischer made during his visits to a refugee centre in Malta and his stay in Morocco. The themes of these two story-lines are however closely related. Both of them speak of the courage one needs to encounter the unknown, be it Gagarin’s decision to volunteer for the space program or the peoples’ misery that forces them to flee their homes.

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    Reikiavik by Juan Mayorga: The Game of Chess.

    Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre  

    Yana Meerzon, who is covering the Festival for the Capital critics circle,  has seen Reikiavik at the  Europe Theatre Festival in Craiova, Romania. It was  performed in Spanish with English sub-titles.

    Beckett’s Fin de partie/ Endgame is his masterpiece about the cruelty of time, the ticking clock that measures our minutes, days and years. Reikiavik by Juan Mayorga, a recipient of the 13th Europe Prize Theatrical Realities, XV Europe Theatre Festival, is about a very similar game: the game of chess in which the players are in an impossible combat with death. Dressed up as the story about the 1972 famous match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spasski, when the Soviet Union lost its 24 year chess crown to the USA, this play uses the metaphor of chess and the metaphor of playing (or of the game) to talk about love, death, and hope.

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    Janet Wilson Meets the Queen: this microcosm of the 1970s pushes nostalgia to tedium

    Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre  

    The world is shifting underneath her feet and yet, Janet Wilson tries very hard not to notice. The world premiere of Janet Wilson Meets the Queen by Beverley Cooper, playing now at the GCTC, turns a family’s home into a microcosm for the rise of political activism and shifting gender roles that mark the 1970s.

    The epitome of 1960’s housewife, Janet prepares for Vancouver’s centennial anniversary and a celebratory visit from the Queen of England. Roger Schultz’s set is a perfectly 1960s kitchen with its colourful, floral print wallpaper that blends into a perfectly matching floor. Two additional risers flank the main stage, which become additional rooms inside the Wilson’s home. A large screen hovers over the kitchen, where the opening moments of the play depict Neil Armstrong’s iconic first steps on the moon. As the play progresses, the moon-walking man materializes on stage, visible only to Janet. He becomes a symbol of the impossibility of stagnation; progress is literally invading her home.

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    Woyzeck’s Head: a thoughtful attempt to transform Büchner comes up against a lot of dramaturgical challenges

    Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre  

    James Richardson takes Georg Büchner’s unfinished textual fragments  (he died at the age of 24) and “plays”with them as much as all other directors have done in the past. More recent scholarship has organized the narrative into a reasonable sequence of events. Sill, directors such as Thomas Ostermeier, Denis Marleau , Bob Wilson and Brigitte Haentjens among others have imposed their own stage esthetics to produce meanings of different sorts, often nourished by a particular formalistic departure point. For example, Brigitte Haentjens who was influenced by the physical work of French masters like Lecoq transformed the soldiers into tribal dancers, stamping their feet and creating a collective will behind the seductive routines of the Drum Major. In such an atmosphere, Marie, woyzeck’s wife could not refuse his advances. Scenes with the captain are transformed into torture, humiliation or even into sexually ambiguous and highly grotesque comedy especially when Woyzeck has to crawl between the Captain’s legs to shave his hidden parts. Ostermeier’s rendering of that was hilarious and unforgettable, a sign of the misery of naturalism approaching a more sinister form of critical expressionism that was to erupt onto the German stage and into film in later years. In fact Fritz Lang already seems to be muttering in the wings? . Much has been done with this very disturbing metaphor of oppression, brewing fascism and the rise of power-hungry individuals in an era when the rational thinking of science clashed with the irrationality of  romanticism and the debate becomes heated in this play.

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    “Janet Wilson Meets the Queen” lands with a thud!

    Reviewed by on    Professional Theatre  

    The World Premiere of Beverly Cooper’s play  currently playing at GCTC never quite gets off the ground and never quite lands. It’s partly due to Director Andrea Donaldson, partly the cast, but most of all the script. Artistic Director Eric Coates mentions playwright Cooper’s “. . . idea that our sense of self constantly evolves.” In Janet Wilson Miss Cooper has created a character that refuses to evolve as the world around her changes.

    Set in 1969-1971, housewife Wilson is stuck in a white-glove life. She’s unable to deal with an errant husband who we never see, a rebellious teen-age daughter, Katie Ryerson in a strong and believable performance, her mother, played by an overly cantankerous and at times unintelligible Beverly Wolfe, and her American draft-dodger nephew, in a two-dimensional performance verging on caricature by Tony Adams.

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