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.

Encount3rs/ Rencontr3s : World Premiere of three commissioned works at the National ArtsCentre.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Photo. Barb Gray
Alberta Ballet Caelestis

In view of an exceptional arts  event to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Canada,  three choreographers and three composers were chosen from across Canada,  to create  specially commissioned works by the NAC. This was an exceptional opportunity  for audiences across the country but also for the artists to meet other companies and other dancers from other parts of Canada. They were invited to  develop their own work freely and to have the rare chance to work with a complete orchestra .Each event lasted 30 minutes in Southam Hall and the whole evening which opened last night and lasted just over two hours, left much to ponder about the future of dance in Canada. (more…)

Little Shop of Horrors – a first-rate performance of this grotesque campy musical!! Theatre Kraken is back on track!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

photo: Maria Vartanova

Theatre  Kraken  has never been my favourite Community Theatre but this new production of  Little Shop of Horrors just changed all that.   The show  began with a surge of vocal and musical  energy  blasting from the  five piece stage band under the direction of Chris Lucas. There was also the impeccable precision of  director Don Fex  and  choreographer Brenda Solman  whose efforts were right on the mark.

This story of Mr. Mushnik,(with the  ever powerful  and oh so versatile Lawrence Evenchick ) owner of a flower shop in the skid row district of New York, becomes the site of a strange event that suggests the War of the Worlds except that it is a hillarious  drama and love story,  peppered with Jewish jokes   and Yiddish expressions  and an underlying  tragic history of the second world war. Something that Mel Brooks himself could have created but this  musical was adapted from the film  by  Alan Menken- music,  and Howard Ashman-, book and lyrics. With strong musicians (the keybords were particularly noteworthy),  director Don Fex’s  captured the  underlying seriousness of these campy characters with great style to produce a very strong show.

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Vigilante: High Energy, Raging Fury, An Opera of Epic proportions.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Photo by David Cooper

Written composed and directed by Jonathan Christenson, produced by Catalyst Theatre (Edmonton) in collaboration with the NAC English Theatre

Massacre of the Donnelly family in Lucan, Ontario (1860) was one of the bloodiest crimes ever to take place in Canada.  The fact that it was never solved has kept historians, writers and researchers interested for many years. As rumours grew, imaginations were fueled and the family of seven boys and their parents, who had emigrated from Ireland, were transformed into a local legend of monstrous killers   who terrorized the community. Probably the best known  work  of fiction based on the murder,  was the Donnelly Trilogy, a verse drama  by James Reaney, first performed  in 1973 -1974 and finally published in 2000. It came to the National Arts Centre many years ago but, as I remember,  the impact of that event was minimal. The horror and the tragedy  did not click with a production that mainly foregrounded the literary qualities of the text that explained the story. (more…)

The Associates/Les Associés : Fine evening of dance performance!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Echo by Christopher House
(The Associates)

It is easy to understand how dance is at the forefront of all performance because it is constantly pushing the boundaries of the human body, investigating the relationship between the human body and the possibilities offered by all technologies involved in spacial creation, transforming the relationship between the text and the body. We are so lucky that the Director of Dance at the NAC has the courage to bring us programmes that may not always be easily understood but that help and have always contributed to forming a demanding dance public in Ottawa.

Marie Chouinard has always been synonymous with extreme originality on the Quebec dance scene and her work seems to be a constant investigation into the anthropological sources of the human being. Emerging from the green greasy Uhrschleim of creation, ritualized movements that take us back to pre-western civilization,(not unlike Romeo Castellucci!) her dancers now propel us into new relations between the human animal and our current technological revolution.

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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

bat89C_0727 Batsheva photographer Gadi Dagon

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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Past Reviews