NAC english

Vigilante at the NAC. Mythology trumps history in this outstanding production

Reviewed by Jamie Portman


Jan Alexandra Smith and the Donnelly brothers
GP Photography

It’s not just that the figures come out of the darkness. It’s rather
that they are marching in deadly and ritualized rhythm from some
hellish void, with a few musicians, mistily visible in the murky
backwaters of the NAC Theatre stage, eerily urging them along.
You’re gripped immediately by the beginning of Vigilante. And this
enthralling production from Edmonton’s Catalyst Theatre continues to
hold you like a vice through to its powerful climax. But you soon
realize that there will be no real light at the end of this tunnel.
The 19th Century saga of Southern Ontario’s turbulent Donnelly family
can hold no promise of cathartic release. Indeed, well over a century
later, this bloody tragedy continues to cast a shadow over Biddulph
township and its people, many of whom reportedly refuse to discuss it
even now. (more…)

Power, Passion and Rocking Vigilante Justice

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: DBP Photographics

Written, composed and directed by Jonathan Christenson. A Production of  Catalyst Theatre (Edmonton) in collaboration with NAC English Theatre

On February 4, 1880, an armed mob murdered five members of the Donnelly family and burned their farm to the ground. No one has ever been convicted for the massacre of the notorious Irish immigrants, despite two inconclusive trials. The vigilante justice imposed upon them was the culmination of an ongoing feud and conflict over land between the Black Donnellys and their neighbours in the township of Biddulph, southern Ontario. (more…)

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…)

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


Andy Jones as Scrooge at the  NAC.                   

                                                                        John D. Huston as Dickens


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.


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.


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.


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

News from Capital Critics Circle

Guest editor Jim Murchison.


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.


The Daisy Theatre : ferocious humour fuels great theatre!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht


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.


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

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht


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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