July, 2017

Motown, the Musical allows these hits to shine once more!

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Motown, the Musical. Performing the Jackson 5. Photo: Joan Marcus

Motown, the Musical. Book by Berry Gordy; music and lyrics from the legendary Motown catalog . Broadway Across Canada in association with Work Light Productions. Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright/ Plays Southam Hall, National Arts Centre

The musical legacy of the remarkable growth of Motown speaks for itself through this jukebox musical — which is just as well because the book by Motown founder Berry Gordy is nothing to write home about. (more…)

This Amorous Servant seduces her audience.

Reviewed by Patrick Langston


A word of advice: If your plans ever conflict with those of Corallina, you may as well just give way because she’ll best you every time.

Corallina — a firecracker with an intense sense of honour, an estimable loyalty to those who merit it and an ingrained understanding that women’s second-class citizenry needs to be rooted out like a nasty bit of poison ivy — is the glue who holds together Carlo Goldoni’s rarely produced 1752 commedia dell’arte creation The Amorous Servant.

Played by the tirelessly excellent Lise Cormier in Odyssey Theatre’s robust outdoor production, Corallina serves in the household of the wealthy but aging Ottavio (David Warburton). When Ottavio is convinced by his conniving second and younger wife Beatrice (Suzanne Roberts Smith) to disinherit his mate-less son Florindo (Christopher Allen in hilarious drama queen mode), Corallina swings into action. And when Corallina swings, she almost never misses.

The ensuing action is, as you might guess, riddled with twists and turns, comeuppances, hopes held high and dashed, and all the other stuff that makes for theatre that’s at once sheer entertainment and an always-timely reminder that the ruling class rules not because it deserves to but because it’s adept at holding on to power and wealth.

Corallina navigates this world of class and entitlement like a pro, gulling her superiors with ease (isn’t it delightful when servants are so much smarter than those they serve?) and sticking always to her motto, “Nothing means more to me than honour.” And don’t expect her to bite her tongue when she spots foolishness. “Don’t be such a sap,” she fires at a hapless Florindo at one point (John Van Burek’s unfussy translation of Goldoni’s original is peppered with such nuggets).

There are, of course, a gaggle of other characters on hand. Chris Ralph plays Pantalone, the moneyed father of Florindo’s love interest Rosaura (Tiffany Claire Martin). But Goldoni, who didn’t hesitate to rework commedia dell’arte conventions, turns the stock character of Pantalone from a cunning man into a waffler, a depiction Ralph handles with likeable humour. That change is one of many that keep Goldoni’s story ticking along at a mostly lively pace.

Also on board are Abraham Asto and Joshua Browne in double roles, including Asto as Beatrice’s son Lelio, a none-too-bright fellow in vain, swaggering pursuit of Rosaura. Late in the play, Goldoni again surprises us by having Lelio reveal a deep vulnerability beneath his bravado.

This being commedia, The Amorous Servant is performed in mask. Jerrard Smith designed the masks, and they’re a treasure trove of arched eyebrows, youthful ardour and long noses predaceously hooked or tipped with a set of spectacles. Especially wonderful is the way they, like the characters, take on deeper life as the sky darkens in Strathcona Park and Ron Ward’s lighting design grows stronger.

With costumes by Vanessa Imeson and a very workable set by John Doucet, director Attila Clemann invests the show with a physicality that outpaces even Odyssey’s usual standard. There are occasional arid spots in Goldoni’s script, but Clemann, who, like Corallina, has a clear idea of exactly what he wants and how to get there, keeps us visually occupied as he steers through them.

Just remember: Don’t ever try to steer through Corallina.

The Amorous Servant is an Odyssey Theatre production. It was reviewed Thursday. At Strathcona Park until August 20. Tickets: od

Kalakuta Republik: An exploration of music, space and movement based on the life of Fela Kuti.

Reviewed by Yana Meerzon

Choreography Serge Aimé Coulibaly; music Yvan Talbot; inspired by the political thought of Fela Kuti ; A production of the Faso Danse Théâtre, Halles de Schaerbeek (Bruxelles)

Born in Burkina Faso, Serge Aimé Coulibaly established his professional career in Africa. He moved to Europe in the early 2000s to re-invent himself as a European dancer and choreographer, now working in Brussels and Bobo-Dioulasso at the same time. In his subject matter and artistic devices, Coulibaly remains the patriot of his native country; he believes that an artist must remain the servant to his/her community. In his criticism of contemporary Africa, Coulibaly tirelessly asks one question – what role should or can play an artist  in today’s charged world? His choreography, his dance, his personal presence on stage is Coulibaly’s response to this question.

This response transforms Coulibaly’s politics into poetry and philosophy, it brings to focus the divided self of an artist whose life style and whose audiences have become international.

KALAKUTA REPUBLIK is Coulibaly’s most recent creation. Inspired by the life, the work, and the political activism of a legendary South African musician, Fela Kuti, it features an ensemble of six dancers lead by Coulibaly himself. An exploration of music, space and movement in two parts, it speaks both about contemporary Africa and Coulibaly’s personal journey of exile. To become a real person, perhaps someone else, Coulibaly says, one must leave his native place. The consequence of this departure is one’s solitude – a necessary condition to make art and a curse all artists share.

Invited to present his work at CLOÎTRE DES CÉLESTINS in Avignon, Coulibaly found himself spellbound by this 14th century space that features two magnificent trees as part of its natural décor. The projections featuring images of African unrest and world military  disasters normally constitute  KALAKUTA REPUBLIK’s scenography. For Avignon, they were diminished on purpose. The ambiance, the texture and the grandeur of CLOÎTRE DES CÉLESTINS dictated the atmosphere of this production, which became more about the solitude of an artist than, as Coulibaly thought it would be,  a manifestation of his criticism of contemporary African politics. Still the energy of this political project was not lost.

The first part, Coulibaly explains, is imagined in black and white, it is “the world of today, the fear, violence, and indifference that always seem to catch up to us”. It is also about how an individual finds his/her place in a group: what begins as an ensemble presentation of people exploring their separate solitudes, unfolds, with Coulibaly’s appearance on stage, as a dialogue these individuals.  This new individual comes in  as a connector between these people. Sometimes he is a conductor of this disjointed orchestra, sometimes he is a musician playing a first violin whose own movements are  reflected in the movements of the others.  For Coulibaly, this part “reminds us that everything is connected, that what’s happening far away from us can also have a real impact on our own lives”.

The second part takes on new colours,.  It reveals  the world in chaos, its absurdity and madness. Here a broken individual is shown from the outside, subjected to the ugliness of the world that has caught up to him and hurt him badly. Aesthetically, Coulibaly says, this part draws on the Shrine, a temple where Fela Kutti used to pray with the audience, “but also a night club in which he performed shows. It was a place where  hope and ugliness once echoed in the world, a  place conducive to political awakening. The walls of the Shrine were covered in sentences, words, and images”.

In the centre of this political manifestation is the same lonely and broken individual, seeking peace within himself and within his community and the larger world. The music of Yvan Talbot underlines this message: echoing the eclectic palette of Fela Kuti, what is known as  Afrobeat, where pop and jazz, funk and rock, evoke a  sound score  of  African chants and percussions. At the same time, drawing on the work of contemporary dance visionaries, including Pina Bausch, Alain Platel, and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, KALAKUTA REPUBLIK remains deeply personal to Serge Aimé Coulibaly’s artistic and philosophical program. To me, Coulibaly says, dance is a march, always personal and always political; “it’s the march of the world, the nature of humanity. What’s great about marching is that it has the capacity  to change the world. The march itself is transformational: the marchers who come to a country will contribute to the building of that country for a long time to come. That is the reality and the hope  of humanity. It’s also the topic of this show, which is a sort of endless march that becomes a state of trance.”*

19 – 25 July, 2017

With Marion Alzieu, Serge Aimé Coulibaly, Ida Faho, Antonia Naouele, Adonis Nebié, Sayouba Sigué, Ahmed Soura

CLOÎTRE DES CÉLESTINS.  Citations from the interview with Serge Aimé Coulibaly can be found here: http://www.festival-avignon.com/en/shows/2017/kalakuta-republik


The Amorous Servant: A new contemporary vision of masked theatre comes to light!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

The Amorous Servant. Photo: Barb Gray

The Amorous  Servant by Carlo Goldoni , directed by Attila Clemann, translated by John Van Burek. A production of the Odyssey Theatre.

The Odyssey Theatre is back in the park again this summer, braving the rain and the bad weather . Luckily it was beautiful the night we saw it, the mosquitoes were gone, the new cushions were comfortable and all was perfect.

A simple but functional  set designed by John D oucet set the space for the  dashing about the house that keeps the eight actors moving  in this 18th Century comedy by  Carlo Goldoni , rarely performed, created in French in 1993 at the Comédie française and only recently translated into English by John Van Burek, better known in Canada for his translations of Quebec playwright Michel Tremblay! (more…)

Candida: breezy and fast-moving at the Perth Classic Theatre Festival..

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Candida, at the Perth Classic theatre. : Photo Jean-Denis Labelle.

By George Bernard Shaw, Classic Theatre Festival.Directed by Laurel Smith

George Bernard Shaw considered his 1895 domestic comedy Candida one of his Plays Pleasant. In part an ironic antidote to A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 drama about a woman’s fate in a male-dominated society, Candida also offers an indirect reference to Shaw’s own background. (His mother left his father for her musician friend.) (more…)

Kiviuq returns: poetry, story telling, music, performance, the makings of an epic in inuktitut.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

kiviuq Returns: photo national Arts Centre English language theatre

Kiviuq  Returns  is a collective work  produced by Quaggiavuut,  a Nunavut-based arts organization that has also worked in Banff with dancers, choreographers and technical staff.  Singers, musicians, story tellers, dancers, actors, painters, set and costume designers, and all manner of artists interested in exploring the re-imagined journey of the legendary Kiviuq , the great northern figure who represents all life as he returns  through the whole Arctic territory, have come together to share each other’s artistic talents and create an extraordinary event that is danced, spoken and sung, mostly in Inuktitut. (more…)

Grensgeval (Borderline) A theatrical exploration of the refugee crisis.

Reviewed by Yana Meerzon

Texte : Elfriede JELINEK –
Traduction Tom KLEIJN –
Mise en scène : Guy CASSIERS –
Chorégraphie : Maud LE PLADEC –
Scénographie, costumes : Tim VAN STEENBERGEN –
Lumière : Fabiana PICCIOLI –
Vidéo : Frederik JASSOGNE –
Son : Diederik DE COCK –
Dans le cadre du 71e Festival d’Avignon –
Lieu : Parc des Expositions –
Ville : Avignon –
Photo : Christophe RAYNAUD DE LAGE –

Grensgeval   (Borderline).Based on Les Suppliants by Elfriede Jelinek.
Directed by Guy Cassiers, choreography by Maud Le Pladec, A Toneelhuis, Antwerp production.

Migration, refugee crisis and crossing borders are among the most pressing political, social and economic issues of today’s Europe. The situation is alarming and confusing both on the level of everyday life and politically, with many people in power trying to manipulate public opinion against refugees. Politically aware artists are actively engaged in searching to contribute to their audiences’ better understanding of the new world. They seek appropriate artistic language to discuss atrocities that refugees experience and to speak to their spectators’ compassion.
Guy Cassiers is one of these engaged artists. An artistic director of the Toneelhuis in Antwerp, Cassiers has been looking into the issues of migration for the past several seasons. He not only focusses his programing on this topic but also creates events aimed at educating the subscribers to his theatre about the new European conditions,  seeking to engage refugees to be more actively involved in the cultural life of Antwerp.

Avignon: Ibsen huis – La Maison d’Ibsen, Ibsen reinvented !

Reviewed by Yana Meerzon

Ibsen Huis, Avignon 2017
Photo. Christian Raynaud de Lage.

Ibsen Huis (La Maison d’Ibsen) Directed by Simon Stone, dramaturgy and translation by Peter van Kraaij, set design by Lizzie clachan, a production by the Toneelgroep Amsterdam

Ibsen Huis  is an homage to the genius of Henrik Ibsen, the first European playwright to study the complex intricacies of human psychology and behaviour, conditioned by our follies, indulgences, and failures.  However, the play is  neither a simple staging of one of Ibsen’s plays, nor is  it a  modern adaptation. This is a new script and production inspired by Ibsen’s characters in conflict.  Created and written by the director Simon Stone and the members of this company  hand-picked for this project, Ibsen Huis  tells a story of the modern dysfunctional family, through the 50-year span of its history. (more…)

Old Stock: A refugee love story. (Artsfile.ca)

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

You may never look at a shipping container the same way after seeing Old Stock. Starring Halifax singer-songwriter-actor Ben Caplan, a luxuriantly bearded lad with a grand voice and a remarkable flair for entertaining, the music-play hybrid opens with a closed shipping container at centre stage.

As blandly anonymous on the exterior as any container, this one swings opens to reveal a four-piece band and the intimate story of two early-20th-century Jewish refugees who fled from Romania to Canada – refugees who are played by a couple of the musicians.

When the show’s over, the container doors close and your own life goes on, richer for what you’ve seen and heard. It’s a wonderful conceit for a set, this shipping container from who knows where. Designed by Louisa Adamson, Christian Barry and Andrew Cull, it suggests everything from foreign shores to life’s transience to the search for a permanent home, all themes in this smartly textured show……..

Read the rest on www.artsfile.ca

Old Stock is a 2b theatre company (Halifax, N.S.) production, co-produced by the NAC. It was reviewed Thursday. In the Azrieli Studio (NAC) until July 15. Tickets: nac-cna.ca


The Jardin Des Délices: Marie Chouinard renews her sources of inspiration and the effect is magic

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Marie Chouinard admits that this performance   represents the “joy of bowing before a masterpiece (NAC program p.3) as she subjects her choreography to the spirit of Bosch’s Triptych  The Garden of Earthly Delights.  The one dimensional  language  of the painter that spreads out on a   flat canvass  before us, marked by the visual esthetics of  the Northern Renaissance ,  is  given a new  spirit on the NAC stage. Contemporary androgynous bodies  moving in space  with musical accompaniment,  subjected to predetermined steps and a form of perfectly orchestrated chaos, reveal the  enormous  shift in creativity that was required by Chouinard to capture the spirit of  Bosch’s  three movements  that inspired her work: The  Garden of Earthly Delights, Hell and Paradise. (more…)

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