Reviewer: Alvina Ruprecht

Alvina Ruprecht
Alvina Ruprecht is professor emerita from Carleton University. She is currently adjunct professor in the Theatre Department of the University of Ottawa.She has published extensively on francophone theatres in the Caribbean and elsewhere. She was the regular theatre critic for CBC Ottawa for 30 years. She contributes regularly to www.capitalcriticscircle.com, www.scenechanges.com, www.criticalstages.org, theatredublog.unblog.fr and www.madinin-art.net.

The Ghomeshi Effect: Sexual assault results in something being broken! A cathartic encounter at the Gladstone Theatre.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Andrew Alexander . from left to right: Marc-André Charette, Emmanuel Simon, Gabriel Lalonde, Front: Annie Lefebvre, Leah Archambault, Mekdes Teshome.

How could one name this performance that is now running at the Gladstone?? It could be docudrama; it could be multi-disciplinary theatre; it could be corporeal theatre although the text is central to the event; it could be verbatim theatre, or even socially engaged theatre that goes for the jugular as it tries to transform our culture in the same way R. Schechner and J. Beck in the 1970’s hoped to do with their political and ritual performances. Perhaps, it also wants to make people aware that many individuals are living in a “war zone” when it comes to sexual violence in our society. In fact it’s a bit of all that. A huge agenda that might seem almost overwhelming for director Jessica Ruano who also wrote the script, for the choreographer who conceived the movement portions, and for the actors who had to shift moods, narratives and characters nonstop during 75 minutes!

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Onegin: Magnificent ensemble work by the National Ballet of Canada brings to life this highly dramatic piece based on Pushkin’s verse novel

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo.  Aleksandar  Antonijevic,  with Xiao Nan Yu and McGee Maddox.

Spectacular narrative ballets are the forte of the National Ballet of Canada and Tchaikovsky’s work based on stories and fairy tales have become the mainstay of their production, not to discount that exquisite Romeo and Juliet set to the music of Prokofiev which brought Karen Kain to my attention many years ago. This was just after seeing her dance Nana (based on the novel by Emile Zola) with the Company of Roland Petit in Paris, Now, thanks to the choreography of John Cranko the Company has added to its repertoire, another exquisite production of storytelling on point, this one inspired by Russian poet Alexander Pushkin’s verse novel Evgeni Onegin written in 1823.

Based on the lyric opera Onegin created in 1879 and set to the music of Tchaikovsky, choreographer John Cranko created his own balletic version of Pushkin’s work which premiered in Stuttgart in 1965 and which became part of the National Ballet’s repertoire in 2010. Last night, we saw the premiere of this fiery example of Cranko’s highly dramatic choreography as it came swelling into Southam Hall, lifting up an adoring audience with its emotional power and magnificent artistic perfection! Who could ever forget Xia Nan Yu as Tatiana the rejected shy young girl, eventually , melting into the arms of the repentant Onegin act III, then she just as passionately tears herself away from his desperate embrace and then turns to the audience in a state of physical ecstasy and mental disarray in one last sign of denial! . The whole event is an extraordinary meeting of dancers who are also excellent actors and the collaboration of director Reid Anderson working with Cranko’s choreography gave us a performance which highlighted the strong dramatic power of Pushkin’s verse.

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Le Dire de Di : la naissance d’une petite créature mythique!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Céline Bonnier  dans Le Dire de Di.

Le Dire de Di : Mise en scène de Michel Ouellette, interprété par Céline Bonnier à la Nouvelle Scène, Ottawa

Dans un premier temps, les phares alignés au fond de la scène nous aveuglent alors qu’une voix douce annonce l’arrivée d’une petite tête blonde tout ébouriffée, la merveilleuse Céline Bonnier en « Di(ane) » un ado de 16 ans. Elle sort lentement de sa boîte noire comme un animal qu’on a enfin libéré. Les phares s’éteignent doucement, la jeune personne avance vers la salle, sort de l’ombre, s’approche du lutrin (il s’agit d’une lecture-spectacle) , regarde le public furtivement et commence son « dire » en hésitant.

Bonnier capte la délicate fragilité de cette petite. Timide, elle choisit ses mots, consulte peu son texte et peu à peu, sa voix s’affirme et le texte s’évapore. On est hypnotisé par les trois couloirs de lumière qui tranchent l’espace au-dessus de sa tête comme un crucifix luisant, signe du grand malheur, le supplice qui va bientôt s’abattre sur la jeune fille. Et Di, naïve et fraiche, gaie et amoureuse de la nature, celle qui appartient à « la race des incivilisés humains, », un être profondément ancré dans le miracle de la création, nous livre son secret : une belle histoire d’amour avec la terre!

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Batsheva Dance Company’s “Last Work”: Ohad Naharin researches the performing body.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Gadi  Dagon

At first, we are intrigued by the evolution of these young bodies in space:  disarticulated, disjointed, straining muscles in unusual directions, in opposition to what happens to bodies executing existing dance steps. Dance has repossessed the human body in a way that makes  unhuman demands on the living human creature and opens a new world.

Choreographed at first as  individuals, each dancer  crawls, lopes, twists, leaps, floats in from the wings,  opposing  the  rhythms and movements of the preceding dancer, just to give us the feeling of the enormous possibilities of the human body in this investigation of what can take place in a performance space.  Then groups form and reform,  as all around them the fluttering and twisting of slim, elongated and  finely muscular creatures jerking in and out, up and down, below and above,  create a parallel dialogue with the  electronic sound effects and highly dramatic music.   There is so much excitement, so much activity that  our gaze  keeps  shifting around the stage, picking up individual movements, noticing  other bodies  regrouping, almost as though we were  watching the trembling of some  nervous cellular activity under an intense microscope.

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The Blizzard of Oz: British Panto geared for winter in Ottawa, is back!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo, Andrew Simon. After the show with the audience!

This time the choreography is slicker (with such numbers as Gotta Get Home, Steppin’ Time and Popular) the singers feel more confident, the acting is top notch, the writing takes the young and less young into account and the audience is perfectly integrated to the point where it knows its lines ahead of the performers!!  Oh yes, Panto  has come of age at the Gladstone and it was the greatest of pleasures to see this vibrant and bouncy cast, under the direction of Ken MacDougall,  hit the spot, with the small tots, the parents and  the grannies alike. They all yelled,  booed and shrieked when the wicked green witch slid into view with her the broom and her shifty snake-like eyes, or the snow monster loped across the stage. Such vile creatures, but such fun.

The story of Blizzard of Oz is similar to the Wizard version except that the tornado becomes a giant snow storm , and it all takes place right in  the Ottawa area. The storm strikes the  town of Ozaboza  (Cazabazua ??), where  Aunty Hem (a revamped Cara Pantalone with a gorgeous head of tangled red curls and most beautiful voice)  and her strong willed  niece Dotty  (played by a  feisty  little Émilie O’Brien) live on their 150 year old farm…exactly the age of Canada…what a coincidence!! . Dotty is transported away by the storm  into the middle of  Ottawa where she meets other displaced persons : the Faircrow, Bob cat and Al Loy – the tin fellow who has the heart of pieces of money. From then on their only desire is to get home..wherever that might be.

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No Man’s Land: Complex portrayal of memory loss captures much more in the world of Pinter.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo courtesy of National Theatre Live. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart

Those of us who cannot dash off to London, now have the chance to see some of the greatest English language theatrical productions in the world  as filmed theatre comes to our  local cinemas by satellite.  

This version of Harold Pinter’s   No Man’s Land, filmed from the Wyndham Theatre in London’s West End is just one of those wonders. It was originally produced at the Old Vic in 1975   starring the “two sirs” John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson and has since toured and been given numerous productions. 

In this case, the show was followed by an excellent question and answer period which let us see these actors , also two sirs, who are old friends, going  back to their first contact with this play and with the theatre in general. In fact this experience was all the more special for us because it reveals the complicity of the actors, as if it were all taking place in the real home of Patrick Stewart (Hirst), who had just invited Ian McKellen (Spooner) in for a drink and then by accident spilt coffee on his jacket and had to wipe it off with a napkin! “That did happen” said Stewart “but I didn’t think anything of it, I just wiped! “  Of course we  are “pissed” adds McKellen so delicately  but even when we learn that the characters have just met in a pub in upper crust  Hampstead Heath, it doesn’t quite seem possible because of the closeness  they exude along with a slightly playful familiarity that feeds the  naturalism of their performance style. 

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A Christmas Carol at the Gladstone: Mr. Charles Dickens pays his respects and performs his story! A real treat for the audience

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: courtesy of the Acting Company.

John D. Huston, an actor we have seen many times before in Ottawa and who is in the habit of performing solo, is back in the city with a most beautiful evening of theatre within theatre.  He literally  becomes Charles Dickens, whisks us back to the 19th Century and plays Dickens the actor as he would have performed his own novella. It is a great pleasure to behold this writer who transforms himself into the various voices from his  text. because who more than he, would be so acquainted with these characters?  He  not only imitates them,  he transforms his face and body into those who are talking, he even creates a vocal sound scape: the ringing of the bells, the rattling of Marley’s chains, the howling of the wind, the noises that set the stage for the arrival of those ghostly creatures who scare poor Scrooge to death.

As a fellow who is trained in the melodramatic acting techniques of his day, Dickens makes everything seem larger than life, more intense than realistic thus emphasizing the  underlying gothic horror of the text, even bringing us closer to something that Edgar Allan Poe might have written since they were contemporaries.

This text represents the version that was cut down from the original three hour performance text, but augmented from the hour version we saw several years ago at the Manotick Fringe festival.

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A Christmas Carol at the NAC: beautiful visuals bring a Christmas decoration to life!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Jack Volpe, Andy Jones

Photo Courtesy of the NAC. Jack Volpe and Andy Jones

A clump of sparkling white Christmas trees beckons to us at the entrance of the theatre telling us that the play has become part of the festive NAC landscape in a new way. Not just because A Christmas Carol has become a Christmas staple in Ottawa (gone are those British pantos which I loved so much) but also because this conception of Dicken’s work has a new existence, one that removes all that is dark, miserable, poor, disturbing and psychological. The event about the transformation of mean old Scrooge, the sad story of Tiny Tim and the poor Cratchit family and Scrooge’s frightening visits to his past his present and his future have been turned into a living Christmas decoration all fluffy, beautiful, seductive, dreamy, shiny, bursting with love, good feelings tinted with  the purity of pristine whiteness. Dickens meets Never Never Land!!! Visually, this production is unsurpassable. Glowing white clouds, given unlimited nuances of whiteness by Michal Walton’s magical lighting effects , reflect the tinges of blue, green and red transformed by  Bretta Gerecke’s set and costumes, as living creatures come to life in white wigs and flit around the audience just before the play begins.

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Cinderella: A child’s delight with a musical montage that brings joy to all hearts.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Cinderella , a production  of   Les Petits Ballets.

This lighthearted version of Cinderella is a  delightful evening  of classical ballet  for young people. Les Petits Ballets has included  two very proficient professional dancers.  Prince Charming (Evgeni Dokoukine,) whose leaps and acting talent brought much excitement to his performance as the Prince. The ball room in the palace that fateful night when little Cinderella appears in her dazzling blue magic robe (Haruka Kyoguch) with the stars twinkling on the top of her head, gave the prince the chance to show his acting talents as he tries to avoid the  terrible two sisters who  were so cruel to Cinderella. But the Prince and Mlle Kyoguch also a professional dancer kept the tension high and the pas de deux breathtaking as they whirled around the floor together dancing the night away in the prince’s palace.  Also excellent was the step mother (Jasmine van Schouwen ) who  brought strong acting  as well as very good dancing to her character role as the pushy mother.

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Une Femme à Berlin (Journal 20 avril-22 juin, 1945) de Marta Hillers, d’après la traduction française de Françoise Wuilmart, adaptation à la scène de Jean-Marc Dalpé, mise en scène de Brigitte Haentjens,

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Yanick MacDonald. De g. à d. Louis Laprade, Sophie Desmarais, Evelyne de la Chenelière,  Évelyne Rompré.

 

La notion d’abjection (Julia Kristeva) trouve son apogée dans le monde reconstitué par Marta Hillers dont l’Identité fut révélée en 2001 bien après la première parution de son journal en anglais (1954). Passé sous silence sous l’Allemagne de l’après-guerre, il fut enfin traduit vers l’allemand en 2002. La traduction française préfacée par le poète allemand Hans Magnus Ensensberger sert de point de départ de la collaboration entre l’auteur dramatique canadien J-M Dalpé et Brigitte Haentjens dont la création dramatique s’est toujours nourrie de femmes tourmentées : Malina, inspirée de l’œuvre de Ingeborg Bachmann,(2000), Mademoiselle Julie (2001), Médée-Matériaux de Heiner Muller (2004) ) ou La cloche de verre de Sylvia Plath (2004) entre autres.. Une femme à Berlin fut adapté par Jean Marc Dalpé et travaillé collectivement par la metteure en scène et son équipe de quatre comédiennes, devenu un quatuor de la mort, manière de mettre en relief la musicalité de cette langue et les diverses tonalités du personnage.

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