NAC english

Kill Me Now packs a wallop at the NAC

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

It’s more than 40 years since a young, award-winning Canadian playwright named David Freeman told an interviewer that what he yearned for most in life was a meaningful physical relationship with another human being.

It was a poignant admission, because Freeman had been born with cerebral palsy. And throughout his life he resisted marginalization by a culture unable to get a handle on the notion that his kind were as capable as anyone else of an entire range of human emotions, including sexual need and desire.

These emotions were given caustic, funny utterance in Creeps, his 1971 stage triumph about the plight of disabled youth trapped in the coils of an unfeeling rehab centre. Its premiere at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre was a groundbreaking event — not simply because it broke  taboos by bringing subject matter like this to the stage, but because of its importance in legitimatizing Canadian drama at a time when playbills across the country were crammed with imported material from Broadway and London’s West End. (more…)

Kill Me Now: A Play About Courage and Love

Reviewed by Iris Winston

By Brad Fraser, A Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (Winnipeg) Production coproduced with the NAC English Theatre.

Disability comes in many guises. And each of the character’s in playwright Brad Fraser’s latest play, Kill Me Now, is disabled to a greater of lesser degree, whether through physical or mental challenges or emotional and relationship issues.

But, says Fraser in the program notes, “this is not a play about disability. It is a play about courage and love.”

So it is. At the centre is the love between father and son. In the next circle of love is that of a sister for the older brother who raised her and an aunt’s caring for her nephew. Then the love ripples out to include friends and lovers. (more…)

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
Vigilante

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

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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.

Nigel-Shawn-Williams-Andy-Jones

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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