June, 2016

Stratford Embraces the Supernatural in Macbeth

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

Macbeth – On The Run 2016

Photo: David Hou. Ian Lake as Macbeth

Macbeth directed by Antoni Cimolino

The supernatural is eerily alive and well in the Stratford Festival’s new production of Macbeth. But those who submit to its allure are fallibly, destructively human.

In our own age, this youthful Macbeth and his lady would probably worship social media and be dangerously susceptible to its excesses and its mistruths. Stratford’s revival may be very much in period, but a similar dynamic can still apply, even in 11th Century Scotland. This Macbeth may be a hero on the battlefield but he’s also a product of his times. In his world, ghoulies and ghosties and long legged beasties and things that go bump in the night are not an unnatural phenomenon. So, if he is dangerously ambitious, why shouldn’t he prepared to listen to the Weird Sisters and heed their prophecies of a great future for him?


Temporada de Teatro Latinoamericano y Caribeño Mayo Teatral 2016

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Marco Vidal en Mendoza (Los Colochos de Mexico).    Vivian Martinez  y los colegas de la Casa de las Americas

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                                                                  Patricia Ariza de la Candelaria, Colombia.  (Camilo).  Photos: Alvina Ruprecht.

Ce Mayo teatral (2016) fut à la fois l’ouverture, par le théâtre, vers une nouvelle vision des Amériques et un voyage vers le passé. C’était avec beaucoup d’émotion que j’ai revu Roberto Fernandez Retamar, Président de la Casa des las Americas, monter sur la tribune, accueillir le public alors que dans les années 1970, nous avons reçu Dr. Retamar à Ottawa en tant qu’invité de l’Association canadienne de Littérature comparée à l’Université Carleton. (Ottawa). Maintenant, revoir ce vénérable monsieur sur la scène chez lui m’a fait un coup de nostalgie très forte.


The Actor<s Nightmare: Entertaining with moments of brilliance.

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

When a nightmare or the greatest fear actors can face strikes, what one can do? Improvise; find a band-aide solution or, go with the flow no matter what. After all, show must go on!

So, when a principal character on a performance night of a great show phones in with the broken leg, desperate crew replaces him with an understudy George. Only, it is not George on the stage, but an accountant who has little connection with theatre, even less with acting. As it happens, everybody is full of their own problems, so that nobody listens to the poor accountant, and as a result, he has to go on the stage and to take a part in four well-known plays: Noel Coward’s Private Lives, Hamlet, of Beckett’s Happy Days, and Bolt’s Man for All Seasons.


“Blithe Spirit” Sparkles at 1000 Islands Playhouse

Reviewed by Connie Meng



Photo: Stephen  Wild. Anita Wittenberg as Mme Arcati

I f you enjoy Noel Coward’s comedies as much as I do, get over to the 1000 Islands Playhouse and see their terrific production of “Blithe Spirit.”  Director Ashlie Corcoran and her uniformly strong cast hit all the right notes of both Coward’s style and humor. Ms. Corcoran has made a wise decision in bringing in Alison Deon as Dialect Coach.  For once Coward’s dialogue and “airy persiflage” sound authentic.

This is partly due to the excellent cast, including Christopher Weddell and Janet Michael as Dr. and Mrs. Bradman.  Kelsey Gilker has great fun with the inexperienced maid Edith, particularly the opening of Scene 2 when her mishaps are accompanied by percussion.  Speaking of percussion, Christopher Stanton’s music and sound are first rate.  I love the scene change music that sometimes sounds like drums and kazoo, as well as the perfectly timed sound in the final scene.

Krista Colosimo does a fine job as Ruth, Charles’s rather unsympathetic second wife, as does Stephen Gartner as Charles, from the use of his perfect period haircut to his final declaration of independence.  As for Shannon Currie’s mischievous Elvira, she’s well-nigh perfect, especially her wonderful body language which is enhanced by Dana Osborne’s lovely costume and wig.


Perth Classic Theatre Festival: I Ought to be in Pictures brings in terrific chemistry!

Reviewed by Iris Winston

ought13510804_993406950756155_4586202729207290206_n  Photo courtesy of Perth Classic Theatre Festival

I Ought to be in Pictures By Neil Simon ; Directed by Laurel Smith

Commitment is not Herb Tucker’s strong point. A screen writer with writer’s block, he proved this definitively over the years by walking out on his family, going through two more failed marriages and maintaining a casual, holding pattern with his current long-suffering girlfriend, Steffie.

So, when 19-year-old Libby, the daughter he left behind 16 years earlier, shows up on his doorstep, reconciliation and an ongoing relationship between father and daughter seem unlikely.

But I Ought to be in Pictures is by Neil Simon. And he regularly mixes laughter and his signature one-liners with a sprinkling of poignancy. When it premiered on Broadway in 1979 and in the 1982 movie version (with Walter Matthau and Ann-Margret), critical response was mixed, often commenting on the sentimentality of the theme or the stridency of the performer playing Libby.

No such reaction would be justified to the carefully balanced Classic Theatre Festival production directed by Laurel Smith. William Vickers inhabits the role of Herb to make his every emotion and reaction totally credible, even periodically eliciting sympathy when he confesses to insecurity or he admits that he is “not good at marriage.”


Bernard Shaw’s Black Girl Arrives at the Shaw Festival

Reviewed by Jamie Portman


Photo David Cooper.  Featuring Natasha Mumba

It might best be described as a 60-minute explosion of zaniness.

It comes to us courtesy of the Shaw Festival, which — in the immortal words of the Monty Python guys — wanted to program “something completely different” for this summer’s lunchtime theatre slot.

At the same time it wanted us to remember the bearded playwright who has provided the essential mandate for one of the largest theatre festivals in the world.

So it commissioned Canadian playwright Lisa Codrington to prepare a stage version of George Bernard Shaw’s controversial 1932 novella, The Adventures Of A Black Girl In her Search for God.

The result, now on view at the venerable Court House Theatre might best be described as inspired mayhem.

To say that Codrington plays fast and loose with the GBS original is to put it mildly. It’s a slyly subversive reworking of an already subversive text, but she doesn’t dishonor the rationalist sensibility that led Shaw to write this satire about the young African girl who offends her missionary mentor by asking too many unanswerable questions about the nature of God and then sets out to find the answers for herself. Instead, Codrington holds Shaw in mischievous affection to the extent of giving the old boy his own place in the script.


Gilbert without Sullivan takes the stage at the Shaw Festival

Reviewed by Jamie Portman


Photo: David Cooper . Engaged

The Shaw Festival has decided to sprinkle a bit of nonsense into a Niagara summer — but it’s nonsense with a satirical agenda.

William S. Gilbert’s Engaged is an 1877 farce about marriage and money — not an unfamiliar theme but one that has proved of abiding interest throughout centuries of drama.

In this instance, it inspired Gilbert to filter it through his own somewhat sour prism, and the result is perhaps his most enduring stage comedy.

The playwriting half of the Gilbert and Sullivan partnership had a view of the universe that ranged from barbed whimsy to outright scorn, and that viewpoint finds particular utterance in this scathing send-up of human greed. Morris Panych’s new production at the Royal George Theatre takes due note of Gilbert’s jaundiced disposition, but he also ensures that Engaged is an airborne delight in performance.

Panych can do frivolity very well, and Engaged is no exception. But he also sustains an undercurrent of irony. At one point in the proceedings, a key character bemoans the mercenary culture of the day: “What a terrible thing is this insensitive craving after money,” he tells us.


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.

      Triunfadela ou la montée d’un Ubu cubain
L’incorrigible Nelda Castillo, cette artiste cubaine, qui a fondé la troupe El Ciervo Encantado, veut produire 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 nous avons vu 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. Elle revient au festival donc avec un portrait grotesque et dévastateur d’un chef politique dont le discours faite esclaffer tout en produisant les ondes de choc a peine croyable, tellement le regard du metteur en scène est juste. Pourtant le texte s’inspire des articles de journaux, des discours authentiques, des photos et des films officiels. Rien n’est transformé, rien n’est modifié d’où la surprise et le malaise.
« Triunfadela » est composé de deux mouvements. Dans un premier temps nous suivons une parodie du réalisme socialiste par le cinéma avec Alfred Jarry et Brecht à l’appui, où la metteure en scène s’inspire les documents authentiques : discours des ouvriers lors des rencontres de travail un peu réorganisés pour créer un effet d’aliénation, des bruitages urbains, des marches, la musique officielle et une bande sonore hétéroclite qui évoque le héroïsme de l’ouvrier. . Nelda a recours à un film tourné en 1970 sur le lieu d’une entreprise située en face de son théâtre sur le Calle 18, lieu abandonné actuellement qui, à l’époque, fabriquait des carrosseries des Omnibus Giron à partir des châssis venus de l’Union Soviétique. Quelqu’un avait filmé les discussions très aliénantes entre les ouvriers contre un arrière-plan de bruitage chaotique en ajoutant des sous-titres en anglais encore plus chaotiques puisque la grammaire et la syntaxe n’étaient pas respectées . Le montage bizarre et chaotique de morceaux de discours, mêlées aux bruits de la rue avec musique officielle, constituent une bande-son hétéroclite qui évoque l’héroïsme des ouvriers. Il était réalisé 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…

Ensuite, une fois le film terminé, on voit arriver sur le plateau, entre deux rangs de spectateurs, une créature ubuesque et monstrueuse, jouée par Mariela Brito complètement transformée pour le spectacle. La visualisation semble reprendre des éléments de « Sur l’inutilité du théâtre au théâtre » (1896) publié par Jarry au moment de la création d’Ubu roi et le discours sur le théâtre, prononcé par Jarry à la même occasion où il remet en question l’illusion réaliste à la scène qui ne peut que réconforter les plus médiocres. Ubu, une « figure ignoble », selon Jarry, d’origine shakespearienne (Macbeth pour tout dire !) est le point de départ d’une parodie politique dans un pays qui n’existe « nulle part », un personnage. Qui parle de la « phy »nance, la physique et la Merdre. Les parallèles avec « Triunfadela » sont surprenants et la démonstration est parfaite.
Vêtue d’un uniforme militaire un peu malmené, un sceau sur la tête en guise de coiffe militaire, les yeux grands ouverts encerclés de noir pour mettre en évidence son regard de hibou qui surveille sa proie, notre « Ubu cubain » arrive. Surtout son gros ventre supporte deux micros attachés à la ceinture pour mieux capter son « discours » fabriqué de grognements, de ronflements, de hurlements, de grincements et de gargouillements tous sortis de cette petite tête effarante qui tourne à droite et à pour créer l’illusion d’une figure humaine qui nous a sous l’œil. Encore plus surprenante, la totalité du discours de « Triumfadela» consistait en des articles tirés des quotidiens cubains (Granma et Juventud Rebelde) sans le moindre changement. La réaction du public devant cette figure démagogique apparemment ridiculisées par un texte pris tel quel dans la presse, était intéressante puisque le public paraissait inquiet, se demandant s’il avait mal compris quelque chose. De plus en plus hypnotisé par cette figure grotesque, bête et méchante, les spectateurs ne semblaient plus savoir, s’il fallait rire ou se taire. La dramaturgie de Triunfadela, sans structure narrative, participe d’une suite de mots-clefs isolés et attirants par leur sonorité et leur rythmique qui traduisent bien la vision très critique qu’a El Ciervo Encantado, concernant les leaders qui manipulent les foules.

Triunfadela, travail courageux et original d’un esprit libre , le modèle d’un chaos créateur et d’une poétique de l’ambiguïté à la fois inquiétante et divertissante, où le message passse très vite.

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