Coming to the Gladstone, Dec. 27-28-29
Vernus says Surprise! Technology can speed communication. Ask all the folks who cannot bear to be separated from their BlackBerrys, iPads, cellphones etc. But, for the generations that are more familiar with the horse-and-buggy era of face-to-face communication, it often results in isolation and confusion.
This is the key message of Ken Godmere’s Vernus Says Surprise, in which he presents a beautifully textured, almost wordless presentation of an 89-year-old man trying to navigate an electronically dominated world to buy a special birthday gift for his granddaughter.
The perfectly timed coordination of movement and soundscape, together with the visual of a shuffling, stooped-back old man with his pants up to his armpits and his too-short tie, create an extremely well conceived, well-executed and moving portrait with – as the title says – a surprise ending.
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For a little bit over an hour while watching the Little Orange Man, I was trying to understand what the show was about. I’m still trying and, I must admit, failing.
Ingrid Hansen plays 12 year old Kitt whose imagination, helped by Hans Andersen’s fairy tales that her beloved grandfather used to read to her, transports the audience to the wild and hyperactive time of childhood. Kitt uses everything that could fit in a lunch box and a trunk to convey the story. Everything is there: pieces of food, puppets, a lamp, a hat a suit, and a shiny bike helmet. The only thing missing is the story.
The performance is very physical. Hansen is energetic, talented and funny, as far as that part goes. Thanks to this, the show was a success. The audience rewarded the performer with a standing ovation and cheers. Unfortunately, except for effective use of different objects, nothing really worked. It felt like a collection of a few randomly picked stories, or rather, the beginning of a few unfinished stories. Kitt, supposedly 12, sounds more like a 7 year old, and for some reason, has a speech problem. The whole thing is unnecessarily long, tiring and, due to utter lack of direction, confusing.
Little Orange Man Produced by: SNAFU Theatre
Created by: Kathleen Greenfield and Ingrid Hansen
Performed by: Ingrid Hansen
Plays at: St. Paul’s Eastern
Written and performed by Melanie Karin and David Benedict BrownThese two writers, performers are also excellent actors and they have produced a most unusual show that translates portions of Shakespeare’s best known plays, into moments of real theatre as reinterpreted through Hip Hop language and culture.
Hip Hop steps have now entered the world of contemporary dance and I have seen so many choreographers adapt these forms to classical music and historical narratives, the results are always exciting performances that bring all culture into the contemporary urban setting. Most often it works. In this case, it did as well!
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Artists have always been in search for new topics and new ways to present their ideas. Lady Business sticks to old issues, but with a very fresh approach through a series of skits. They look into our mind, dissecting its secret corners with a sharp knife and attacking fears caused by stereotypes with no mercy or decorum. You’re a fat girl, they say it to your face, and you have to cry about it? Come on!
The chain of sketches goes on. Some attack daily issues, some ridicule established routines, while others offer a serious criticism of global politics and economy. What is common to all of them, regardless of the form of, is the level of performance. It is a comedy close to its best. The young acting company Lady Business is comprised of three excellent actors: Laura Bonang, Alexandra Hurley and Deborah Ring. Remember those names, I believe we will hear from them again, and I hope soon!
Not only are they smart observers of life, but they also find a new way to talk about it – blunt, but in a good taste, and with the tinge of sarcasm. Their amazing ability to transform instantaneously from one character to another allows them to take on a variety of characters, and to make all of them alive, convincing and lovable. No wonder that the audience loved every minute of the show. The constant laughs and a long round of applause were fully deserved.
Presented in the Arts Court Library.
In three seconds, long lanky Mark Shyzer removes a shirt, flips on a wig, switches genders as easily as a snake sheds its skin and transforms himself into four disturbingly sinister but grotesquely funny creatures.
Nerdy Esther Goody, working on a physics experiment with “dark matter”, analyses the universe as she chats with Frank, the goldfish in his little bowl, floating in space. But she isn’t the only creature who emerges from the dark and creepy world of Shyzer whose four creatures are impeccably performed. Raymond is the young rebel who tells us he hates his parents as he stands there clutching his arm, the defensive gesture of a deeply disturbed young man; there is the ambivalent divorcee- male or female – it isn’t clear but that’s the point, draped over a chair telling s us how she hates her former partner . There is the elderly male and former teacher, near death, who hates his students and just wants to be left alone. They all seem to belong to the same family of monstrous slickly urban almost Gothic humans who all breathe as though their lungs were rattling in their bodies, who stare with deeply enraged eyes. They are furious with the world and with all humans around them and they create the impression they all belong in that great fishbowl where the strongest eat the weakest.
Monstrously funny but intriguing as theatre, and impeccably performed by an actor who draws your gaze and keeps you fixed on his body as well as on his excellent text. A surprisingly original performance that perhaps went on a bit too long. They might consider cutting a few minutes. There were several moments before the final longer scene with Esther that could easily disappear.
FISHBOWL is an evening of hideous fun in the dark in at Academic Hall
A spoof by a group of 11 students from the University of Ottawa whose faces I recognize from other productions on that stage but whose names I don’t know. Gangland movie style killing, TV police investigation show, all done with a playfully contemporary vision of a reversed biblical adventure where God, better known here as Papa, is the arch gangster who has set up his believers as a criminal organization-The Brotherhood – to get rid of intruders and those who don’t obey. Something of this reminds me of M the Maudit. – the arch-criminal, that Fritz Lang film that took us all back to the pre second world war days warning us of the coming of the Nazis. I’ll bet the author is a real film buff and this staging makes a bit of an attempt to get into the "film noir" atmosphere.
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Rajka Stefanovska A former Cirque Du Soleil performer and Celine Dion backup dancer, Sandrine Lafond takes a step towards unique theatre artistry with her show, Little Lady. This artist, gifted with a remarkable talent and daring nature puts together a show to be remembered. Combining the power of imagination, dance, and acting, she created an inventive and challenging performance which clearly belongs to experimental theatre.
Her vision of a little lady is that of a woman who is vain, curious about her image, and inquisitive about her immediate surroundings. As a character, she gradually grows with every new movement on stage. The play revolves around a daily routine of a bug-resembling human creature, which consists of simple things such as listening to the radio or knitting, but also exploring the world around her. In the style of popular fairy tales, there is a daily task for her: to choose from three stainless steel serving dishes, each larger than the next. If she makes a mistake by choosing the largest one, she is punished by an electrical shock. By the end of the third day she grows from a creature that can hardly walk to a person who can stand on her own.
Every movement in Lafond’s performance is there for a reason. Wide open eyes, wobbly legs, wagging tongue – each little move tells part of the story. She paces it beautifully, giving the audience just enough time to take in the segments. The story she presents is vibrant, funny, artistic, and unique – definitely one that should not be missed!
Alvina Ruprecht . Little Lady, is an amazing corporeal transformation by Sandrine Lafond who is a clown, an acrobat, a contortionist, an actor and a consummate performer. She takes us through a series of daily rituals which show how her body, little by little becomes erect, self-sustaining, and independent as it fills out and begins flowing in a most graceful way. We feel we are watching the evolution of the human species: from part human part undefinable creature, her body turns into a beautiful human butterfly.
Unfortunately it was in the Arts Court Library where one cannot see the show beyond the third row. Consequently there was no one sitting beyond the fourth row which was too bad for the artist.
I think that if the Ottawa Fringe still wants to use the space they have to rearrange it to make it more “friendly” to the artists and to the public.
For example, raise the acting space about two or three feet, or else rearrange the seating in that long room. Have the performance on a long platform located UNDER the windows (all along that side wall) and have the seats placed in 2 or 3 rows moving from the top to the bottom in front of the wall. That would improve the site lines immensely. .
Little Lady Plays in the Arts Court Library.
A few years into the future in North America, the ethics of assisted suicide are no longer under discussion because helping the terminally ill to end life has been legalized. Therefore, the procedure is now just a matter of routine, or is it?
In 2020, playwright J.P. Chartier (who also plays a husband almost involved in a love triangle) apparently sees no need to rerun the pros and cons of euthanasia. Rather, he points to the more enduring questions of love, greed and emotional involvement impairing scientific calculation.
The dichotomy limits the impact of the show. The degree to which it succeeds is due to the slick production qualities, careful direction and good performances.
The biggest negative is the way that Chartier leads the audience astray in suggesting who the next subject on the deathbed might be.
Artbeat Theatre Group
Directed by Sarah Hearn
Written by J.P. Chartier
Cast: J.P. Chartier, John Collins, Alexa Higgins, Mike Kennedy, Thea Nikolic, Jennifer Vallance
In a festival with plenty of laughs, a collaborative piece about suicide was bound to stand out. White noise is the story of Nadia Kajouji, a first-year Carleton University student who committed suicide in 2008. Twisted by Design does a beautiful job of telling her story and, perhaps even more importantly, creating a lingeringly haunting atmosphere.
The story is told through Margaret (played by a convincing Margaret Evraire) who is a first year university student suffering from depression much like Nadia was. While searching for people to talk to, she stumbles upon Nadia’s story. From that moment on, their stories intermingle. As Margaret follows the other girl’s story, she decides not to kill herself and to seek help from outside.
The play is gripping, especially the scenes with the Qallupilluit, monsters from Robert Munsch’s book A Promise is a Promise, who come to both girls and spiral them ever-deeper into depression. There’s a dreadful, understated feeling throughout and the actors manage to get the story and atmosphere across without resorting to over-the-top or pathetic performances. A great, touching play!
As Ken Godmere breathlessly thanked all his team that created the soundscape of his new show - where he only utters one single word - he could scarcely contain his excitement, his immense gratitude and the thrill of this first performance of his Ottawa Fringe appearance. It was greeted with a spontaneous explosion of emotion and pleasure by an audience that hung on every movement, every facial twitch, every recorded shuffle, ring, knock, tick, rustle snap, scrape and vocal sound that filled the space of the capacity crowd in the Leonard Beaulne studio. Standing ovations have become so commonplace on the Ottawa stage that they no longer mean anything, but in this case, it meant everything. It was real! And Godmere deserved it.
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