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Season’s Greetings from Rosemary Thompson at the NAC

News from Capital Critics Circle

nacimage001 Thank-you to the NAC!!

Nous vous remercions tous!!

The CCC – Les critiques du CCC!!

Two Versions of A Christmas Carol in Ottawa: Jamie Portman confronts the NAC production with the production at The Gladstone. Much to contemplate!!!

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Andy Jones as Scrooge at the  NAC.                   

                                                                        John D. Huston as Dickens

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There’s no doubt that the National Arts Centre has unleashed an intriguing production of something this Yuletide season. And yes, it purports to be A Christmas Carol —   indeed the printed program tells us that  the Dickens classic has been adapted and directed by Jillian Keiley, the NAC’s restlessly inventive head of English theatre.
Before traditionalists go into meltdown over what’s taking place at the NAC Theatre, they may find comfort in the fact  that the arts centre doesn’t hold the  corner on the Scrooge market in Ottawa this December — not with John D. Huston holding court a few kilometres away at the Gladstone with his one-man version of A Christmas Carol. The two shows present a sharp contrast — with Huston unrepentantly drenched in tradition and the arts centre taking, shall we say, a more cavalier approach.

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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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A Christmas Carol at the NAC: NAC English Theatre finds fresh perspective in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

Final Review posted by Patrick Langston in the Ottawa Citizen!!   December 17, 2016.  PatrickLangston  We wish him well.

A Christmas Carol at NAC English Theatre

A Christmas Carol at NAC English Theatre Photographer: John Lauener / –

Bringing Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol to the stage is a risky business. The story is as well known as that of Adam and Eve – indeed, there’s something of The Fall and subsequent Redemption in Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey from innocent boyhood to miserly misery and finally into bliss – and finding a fresh interpretation of Dickens’s tale can be tough.

The NAC English Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol, newly adapted by director Jillian Keiley and starring Andy Jones as Scrooge, finds that fresh perspective and does so with élan.

At the centre of the production is Bretta Gerecke’s startling design. She’s cast the set, which is minimal to the max, in a cold, snowy white and done the same with costumes including wigs. There’s little to no colour in this world because there’s none in Scrooge’s wizened one, and Gerecke’s design choices reminds us that we are seeing the world through Scrooge’s chilly gaze. The vitality and warmth of the other characters in the story – and, of course, Scrooge’s own growing humanity as he visits Christmases past, present and yet-to-come – are what give this frozen world colour.

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A christmas carol: A Spirited Tale of How Things Should Be

News from Capital Critics Circle

Guest editor Jim Murchison.

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Photo. Courtesy of the NAC. Nigel Shawn Williams (Bob Cratchit and Andy Jones as Scrooge)

I am a big Christmas sap. I watch all the Christmas shows. Of course there is probably no Christmas tale that has been retold more often with more approaches than Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, sometimes to great effect and sometimes less so.

Artistic director Jillian Keiley has the challenge of adding a twist to a classic without diluting the Dickens out of it. To this end, She brings us in to see, touch, smell and feel Christmas by literally touching fur, feeling the weight of the chains and sharing smiles and chat with the actors. It is a masterful way to bring you in, sit you down and warmly hold Christmas in your heart and hands before a word of Dickens is spoken: it works wonderfully well.

Before you even enter the theatre there are Christmas trees adorned with miniature sets of the familiar places you will be seeing throughout the play. They are places you have seen in your minds eye a thousand times before. The life size set and costumes are various tones of cream and white, not nearly so detailed as the miniatures. Every element is designed to feed and fuel the imagination of the audience so that the spirits and shadows are nourishing your memories simultaneously as they liberate Scrooge from his own cold heart.

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The Daisy Theatre : ferocious humour fuels great theatre!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: Alejandro Santiago: Little Woody Lindon and Meyer Lemon.

Ronnie Burkett is back in Ottawa, creating havoc and palpitations as he unleashes his special brand of ferocious humour on our city. This time, our creative genius from Western Canada, has freed himself from a narrative, from a script, from a specific lineup of acts as he puts many of his performance choices in the hands of his favourite audience: menopausal ladies and gay guys!! Yes the audience is offered choices and thus, no one is spared, everyone goes through the Burkett meat grinder this time and one leaves the theatre with one’s head twirling!! Such a show!

This time he has created a theatre within his theatre, The Daisy Theatre proscenium puppet arch is set up in the middle of the stage. It features a sequence of performances by his puppet characters drawn from former shows but that appear on their own, putting on their own individual monologues that reveal their naughty secrets, the underbelly of their obsessions, their troubles and their true selves. They are cleansed of any serious narrative that turned them into characters in a play because now, they are on stage as “themselves”, that is, as manipulated by Burkett who takes advantage of the situation to confront his puppets, and ultimately to put himself in the foreground. His multiple voices, his flowing monologue, his quick and clever shifting from one situation to another as his characters tumble out nonstop is a marvel to watch and hear. He grabs the various puppets all set up backs stage, hangs over the little puppet stage, gives stage directions to the lighting people to the sound director and off he goes with no apparent prompter of any kind because there is no script as he keeps reminding us.

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Belles Soeurs The Musical: Tremblay passes the test of musical theatre with flying colours!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo: “Ode to Bingo”courtesy of the NAC and the Segal Centre for Performing Arts.

A chorus of unglamorous women of various shapes and sizes files onto the upper level of the proscenium arch that frames the kitchen where Germaine Lauzon (Astrid Van Wieren) and her “soeurs” are about to party, pasting one million trading stamps into those little booklets, making Germaine’s dream of owning all those items in the store catalogue, a reality at last. Little does she know that her dreams will come crashing down before the performance ends.

A band of five talented musicians tucked into either side of the small kitchen space raises the excitement level and carries us beyond a traditional Broadway style of glitzy performance. This new English language production of Tremblay’s Les Belles-soeurs (a reworking of the French musical production presented in 2010), originally staged as a play in 1968, is actually not far from Tremblay’s original conception of the work. True, there is music, there are lyrics in English, and the original joual which was the essence of Tremblay’s statement about Québécois culture, has been replaced by lyrics in standard English. Even the ending has changed radically. Yet it works because director René Richard Cyr, composer Daniel Bélanger, adaptor of the English book Brian Hill as well as the English Lyrics, musical adaptation and additional music by Neil Bartram and the musical direction by Chris Barillaro, have collectively reinvented a stage language that compensates so well for all that has changed.

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Belles Soeurs: The Musical” sings out the NAC Season

Reviewed by Connie Meng

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Photos .Courtesy of the National arts Centre

The NAC English Theatre is closing out their season with the musical “Belles Soeurs.” Based on the Michel Tremblay play, the book and lyrics are by Rene Richard Cyr who also directed, with the English book adapted by Brian Hill. The music is by Daniel Belanger with English lyrics, musical adaptation, and additional music by Neil Bartram.

Michel Tremblay’s play, first produced in 1973, has become a Canadian classic that has been produced all over the world in over 30 languages. It tells the story of Germaine, winner of one million trading stamps, and the stories of her friends and relatives who she has invited to a party to help paste the stamps into books. These are all Quebecois women, unhappy with their lot in life and uncomfortable with the changing times. Germaine’s daughter Linda wants to fit in with the new ways and bonds with Germaine’s estranged sister who works in a club. We gradually learn about all of their lives.

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Belles Soeurs the musical is a winner!

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

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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    Concord Floral: a youthful ritual of psychic proportions. Spellbinding!!

    Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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    Photo: Courtesy Suburban Beast and NAC’ Ottawa.

    Concord Floral was inspired by an existing greenhouse in Vaughan (in the Toronto area ) that was demolished in 2012 but the rotting space somewhere in a mysterious field that emerges from Tanahill’s imagination becomes the site of an encounter among ten young people and their deep-seated obsessions. The actors for this production were all chosen from the Ottawa area. The author also mentions Boccaccio’s Decameron as another source of inspiration and perhaps Joey’s encounter with an older man looking for sexual satisfaction could bring us back to Boccaccio’s wild dreams of frantic coupling inspired by the terror of the plague, something that Artaud discusses in his seminal text about the way the plague transformed European culture. However, Tannahill’s imagination appears to be much closer to more recent television performances such as Bitten, Twilight, Paranormal Witness or The Haunting of….., inspired by repressed obsessions, exacerbated fears deeply embedded in the troubled psyche of young people who are at war with their parents, who are stressed out by the violence in the world around them, and by the lack of understanding outside their own microsocieties where they find understanding, support and refuge. Even in this enclosed world of young people, the “pack” instinct rears its head as the most vulnerable is subjected to great cruelty while a spirit of guilt engulfs the group and vengeance propels the most extroverted individuals . We are clearly in the very depth of the human psyche inhabited by archetypal figures defining the basic human instincts in the world.

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