Capital Critics' Circle
Le cercle des critiques de la capitale

Reviewing Theatre in Canada's Capital Region
La critique théâtrale de la région Ottawa-Gatineau

Ottawa Fringe 2013. The Show Must Go On

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2013, Summer Theatre 2013  

Written and performed by Jeff Leard, directed by James Leard.

A surprising epic, the initiatic journey of a young actor whose experiences as part of a cross Canada tour with a company performing children’s theatre, transforms him into someone who sees sense in this life, someone who loves to do theatre for children. An intelligent, well-constructed and very theatrical savvy show by a strong young actor who keeps us glued to the trials and tribulations of this character: an actor who performs Rumpelstiltskin across the country. Much originality, much performance virtuosity by a young man who is on the way to becoming a serious actor. One suspects there is a portion of autobiography here but so much the better. A pleasure to watch because it comes from deep down inside and that, I like!

Ottawa Fringe 2013. Sappho in 9 Fragments by Jane Montgomery Griffiths

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2013, Summer Theatre 2013  

Sappho in 9 fragments by Jane Montgomery Griffiths, performed by  Victoria Grove

The public has to realize that this is a theatrical adaptation of Sappho’s poetic fragments so don’t expect to hear a reproduction of her writings. If that is clear at the outset, it is much easier to appreciate the show. A poetic transgression produced by multiple voices, gives new meaning to Sappho’s writings in today’s world. This performance within a performance, spoken by the silken and sensual voice(s) of Victoria Grove, incarnates two couples, whose poetic expressions of desire and beauty produce a portrait of the writer, so misunderstood over the centuries. Through these voices who relate their own passionate encounters with a blinding object of desire, we move between Ancient Greece and the modern world, to the point where space, time, voices and the original texts blend and Sappho the legend emerges as an eternal force of enormous power. Some of the language is magnificent. The staging is striking, even hypnotic as the poet/goddess, first appears as a fluttering shadow, murmuring her incantations in Greek, seemingly a return to the platonic vision of reality as it is reflected on the wall of that cave. Plato is immediately transgressed as Sappho removes the curtains and reveals her physical presence to all, thus imposing her own revised image of reality, which is what we then see as the actress twists herself around the lengths of twine, as she moves between those imaginary spaces in time. Greatly enhanced by the set, by the lighting and by the sound design that brings us back to the origins of time, the sensual voice of this superb actress, becomes a presence that goes far beyond the text.

See it in the Arts court Library.

Directed by Jessica Ruano

Set design, Ana Ines Jabares

Lighting, Sarah Crocker

Sound, Luca Romagnoli

Ottawa Fringe 2013. The Hatter

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2013, Summer Theatre 2013  

The Hatter
Spired Theatre (Richmond, BC),

File this under “seemed like a good idea at the time.” Writer/performer Andrew Wade has concocted an interesting premise for his solo show: What drove Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter mad? Much less interesting is the answer – suffice to say that it’s straight out of the Psychology 101 chapter on denial – and how Wade gets there. His Hatter is unconvincing as a character, his trials and tribulations no more resonant than a door mouse’s thoughts are deep. Wade plays, briefly, the March Hare and other Wonderland characters but lacks the agility to make the transitions. There’s an improvised song based on an audience suggestion, but it does nothing except chew up time. The Hatter also reads a long poem which he’s supposedly never seen, yet Wade rattles most of it off without ever looking at the paper on which it’s written. On the plus side, the Hatter does offer fresh tea to every audience member.

The festival continues until June 30 at various downtown venues. Tickets / information: Fringe office, 2 Daly Ave., 2nd floor; 613-232-6162;

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Ottawa Fringe 2013. Emissions. A Climate Comedy

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2013, Summer Theatre 2013  

This is an amazing show! I was immediately seduced by the tightly choreographed physical comedy that director Tracey Guptill imposed on her troops, whipping them into some of the best ensemble shape I have seen at the festival. Most of the material is exceedingly clever (the founding story of the ecological movement ) which goes back to Adam and Eve’s real reason for leaving the garden of Eden: an ideological split of a special sort forced them to go their separate ways. The result, Eve travels the world to create a community of green conscious members who don’t always live up to her expectations, while Adam pops up at the most unexpected moments. Its wild and woolly, it explodes into hysterics, it satirizes the fanatics, it harnesses energy and produces tribal dancing and the musical accompaniment which also works as sound effects , created and performed by Scott Irving is perfectly suited to the action. It is an amazing flight of imagination where an uneven text is given an extremely exciting reading by this young director who shows enormous promise. Note that super Ottawa based performer Jen Vallence whom we rarely see in our city.  This “Eve” , when not preventing global warming, must be hiding out in New York doing Broadway shows or something? And of course William Beddoes is his excellent self. This show reveals a ton of talent that I never suspected. Go see this one.

Emissions. A climate comedy written by Ann Cavlovic, directed by Tracey Guptill.

Ottawa Fringe 2013. My Second Smile with Noah Spitzer

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2013, Summer Theatre 2013  

This performance is clearly conceived as a piece of very important personal therapy where a cancer survivor is celebrating the joy of life! He dances, he goes berserk on the public transit system, he infuses his frightening medical experiences (radiation treatments, operations etc ) with a sense of theatrical humour that makes it all bearable (for the audience and for himself) and he sustains an hour of movement, clever lighting effects and an excellent rapport with the audience. This young man is a very talented performer who uses his instruments (his body and his voice) with great inventiveness. The material is uneven but that is not the point here. He has survived,  and it’s his personal journey that he wants to tell us, avoiding any pathos, which is also what I appreciated. It all took a lot of guts. A big hug to this lovely fellow and fine actor.

Noah Spitzer performs at Arts Court.

Ottawa Fringe 2013. Nhar Moves

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2013, Summer Theatre 2013  

Chris Kauffman sets up his props, his screen, where the background of his performance pops up,  and promptly becomes Nhar, who reminds us of a cross between Harpo Marx and Charlie Chaplin with the hat, coat and moustache. Here, however his  character is Pedro (a disgruntled warehouse worker).    Pedro discovers a gold fish, and this little creature is the starting point for a brilliant  illustration of  many issues society deals with today as well as Pedro’s own personal need for love. Kauffman is a master mime although Pedro does murmur a few words and sing  a few songs. Nhar Moves is creative theatre and a must on your Fringe list.  

Ottawa Fringe 2013. Innocent When You Dream

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2013, Summer Theatre 2013  

Imagine being trapped in a whale’s stomach for a very long time. You eat mountains of stale crackers, read two books over and over again and -  being alone for a long time – you finally invent friends.   West builds his story on two classics: Moby Dick and Don Quixote.  The concept is very interesting and allows the author to explore daily life and the quest for love. Told in a funny way, it captivates the audience better at some moments than others. Although it is generally a good, well-paced and interesting show, from time to time it seemed that West ran out of ideas. Definitely a good story-teller however,  he is not meant to be a singer and the  song at the end of the show does not help. it is obvious that it  only serves to fill the time. I would have liked to see West invest a little bit more time and energy in the story, because it is the highlight here and it makes the show.

Written and performed by:

Zeb L. West

Ottawa Fringe 2013. Under the Mango Tree

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2013, Summer Theatre 2013  

This is a one woman play written and performed by Veenesh Dubois, where Veneesh leads us on a roller coaster of emotions. Her performance as Timal is outstanding.  She captures the essence of a little 10-year old girl, whose father leaves his family and their small village to travel to the land of opportunity – Canada.  He promises to return and from that moment on, their only contact is through letters.  Timal is left in the care of her grandmother.  This is when Veneesh deftly uses a red scarf to transform herself  into the character of the grandmother and later, using the same prop, she becomes  the auntie, and a bride of an arranged marriage.  Under her convincing performance, we watch Timal  mature through her teenage years into a wife and mother.  The short film screened during the performance, gives glimpses of  father’s life in Canada which is perhaps extraneous to the play but   Under the Mango Tree is a ‘must see’ on your Fringe list. 

Written and performed by: Veenesh Dubois
Location: Studio Léonard Beaulne
June 21, 23, 24 25, 28, 30 2013 (at different times)
Timal’s Dream – Short Film
Director: Suzanne Bastien
Producer: Veenesh Dubois
Cinematographer: Colin Stoddard
Actors: Dhirendra Miyanger, Charlie Bewley
Tammy Gillis, Sean Nowak, Trevor Peever, Rachel Wolski

Ottawa Fringe 2013. The Bike Trip with Martin Dockery

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2013, Professional Theatre, Summer Theatre 2013  

Brooklyn U.S.A.

After his Wanderlust show that took us into the desert at the Fringe a couple of years ago,  Dockery, the shamanic story teller is back.  The man who transforms his whole body into a story telling instrument, to produce a delirium of vocal sounds, movement and bodily language,  takes us on a long and exciting adventure, full of surprises, twists of language, unexpected humour and lightning references to the encyclopedia rumbling around in his head. All this to bring us into  touch with his inner world and help us understand his own vision of the history of  LSD. This is a most unique story teller, the likes of whom I have never seen in my whole life and I have seen magical story tellers throughout the Caribbean, the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and Latin America. This man psyches himself up, gets physically inside his subject matter and explodes with a volcanic energy that makes us hear and feel exactly what he is describing. Do not miss this adventure that is much much more than what it appears. 

Ottawa Fringe 2013. Prince of Denmark by Michael Lesslie

Reviewed by on    Ottawa Fringe 2013  

The choice of Michael Lesslie’s prequel to Hamlet, a witty, ironic and always elegant text, has been called by this British author “the stepping stone for young people into Shakespeare”.   Conceived for young actors, it would appear to be the perfect vehicle for this inaugural performance of Ottawa’s New Young Company, working in association with  Third Wall Theatre.

Unfortunately, this  text mainly highlights the weaknesses of the players and the direction of actors in general.  The play is characterized by heightened language which echoes both Shakespeare and modern adaptations of this language that try to capture the irony rooted in this text. There is even comic relief by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as British school girls . Lots of fun but not quite what one would expect and all this is  extremely difficult for young players who have relatively no experience. I would have thought that giving them a text written in a language  more familiar to their own, would allow  them to feel more at ease on stage, would have made this first stage experience much more beneficial.

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