Ottawa Fringe 2016
Reviewed by Jamie Portman
Miss Bruce's War is not your normal Fringe entertainment. It's a new
piece by 93-year-old Jean Duce Palmer and based on her own experience
of teaching in a one-room school in Alberta's Cypress Hills region
during the Second World War. It's also a student production that comes
to the Fringe from Ottawa's Elmwood School.
This is a memory play rather than a traditionally constructed drama.
It's only real conflict rests in what happens when a young and
inexperienced teacher is thrust into an alien culture and faces the
classroom challenge of dealing with German-Canadian youngsters in a
time of war. Yet it remains an affecting piece of theatre because of
the quiet integrity of the script, and the evocative power of the
playwright's memories, coupled with the responsive work of a group of
talented youngsters under the direction of Angela Boychuk.
June 20, 2016 Monday at 1:33 pm
Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska
Jamesy comes into a room bringing with him a pot of tea and teacup. In bizarre, slow motion movements, he approaches the table and arranges the tea in an obsessive manner. Bringing a second cup suggest that he is going to share his precious tea with someone. Enter his friend James and the tea party begins.
It’s a true party that these two bring to the stage. They combine physical comedy and improvisation, including audience involvement into a perfectly logical scenario. The story features two friends, a general, Jamesy’s parents and a doctor. First, they “kill” the general on the battlefield, and after that, Jamesy asks his best friend James to take a photo of him and his parents. Of course, the parents are chosen from the audience. In the middle of the photo session, his father has a heart attack, which calls for a doctor (another audience member). The father, along with the entire family and the doctor rushes to the hospital. On their way there, they come face to face with a several difficulties, including a car accident. Not surprisingly, everybody ends up in Cafe Limbo, obviously on their way to Heaven.
June 19, 2016 Sunday at 7:44 pm
Reviewed by Iris Winston
Before issuing media passes this year, the Fringe organization required the media to sign a document that was unacceptable to me and many of my colleagues. As I could not sign, my reviews are limited to companies that invited me to attend and write about their shows. Iris Winston
Miss Bruce’s War
By Jean Duce Palmer
Director: Angela Boychuk
A fictionalized account about playwright Jean Duce Palmer’s experiences as a young teacher in a one-room school in rural Alberta during the Second World War, Miss Bruce’s War brings moments in history to life with a fine cast of students headed by Sophia Swettenham in the title role.
As well as having an excellent singing voice, Swettenham brings warmth to a demanding part as she delivers patriotic British songs to a community that was first settled by German speakers. She is well supported by the rest of the 12-member cast, particularly Madighan Ryan as Irene, the youngster in whose home Miss Bruce boards and whose bedroom she occupies.
There is also excellent cooperation among the ensemble in arranging and re-arranging the simple and well-conceived set pieces.
A first-class high school production, Miss Bruce’s War is an unusual but very worthwhile presentation for fringe theatre.
Next performance: June 25, 12 noon, Academic Hall
June 19, 2016 Sunday at 7:16 pm
Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska
Small Creatures Such as We
Created by Meagan McDonald & Vishesh Abeyratne
Produced by Angel in the Rafters Theatre
Joanna and Kit meet in their teens. He is a tough boy and she is a modest, religious girl. As opposites attract, Joanna and Kit fall in love. It is an unsteady, adolescent relationship, but it is exciting and pure. The Romance finishes with an unexpected pregnancy and stillborn child. They part, each going a different direction. Still, they often think of each other, and finally meet again after 10 years. Now as adults, they talk about how their lives have been changed as a result of their past. By revealing sequences of their youth, they face their inner demons and expose their tortured minds.
Small Creatures Such as We is a well-written story in which Meagan McDonald and Vishesh Abeyratne explore the dark side of growing up. They probe such issues as violence among teenagers, fear of and confusion with circumstances they find themselves in, as well as unprotected sexual relationships and its consequences. Although the general tone of the play is tragic, the creators leave hope for the future. Does love conquer it all? The end seems to be rushed, and therefore lacks the conviction of the rest of the narrative. (more…)
June 19, 2016 Sunday at 9:04 am
Reviewed by Patrick Langston
Doctor Keir Co (Montreal), Studio Léonard-Beaulne
Just when you thought the question about whether Shakespeare actually wrote Shakespeare was one of those arcane discussions that had finally been consigned to the dumpster of literary history, Keir Cutler raises it again in this lecture-style, partly autobiographical and largely uninspiring comedy. Turns out that the contrarian Cutler’s interest in disputing Shakespeare’s authorship of all those works (he does marshal some enticing arguments for his position) is at heart a rallying cry for independent thinking in the face of smug, conformity-loving academics who simply squelch any discussion of uncomfortable questions like the authorship one. The show has a undisciplined feel, including an extraneous homage to his bright, ambitious parents and an account of how, on the path to a PhD, Cutler discovered that he’d score top marks only by parroting back to professors their own opinions. I don’t know about you, but my own, extended university experience completely contradicts the latter. This show is Cutler’s eighth Ottawa Fringe appearance. (more…)
June 17, 2016 Friday at 2:28 pm
Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht
Love is a Battlefield written by Martin Dockery, performed by Vanessa Quesnelle and Martin Dockery; Dramaturgy by Vanessa Quesnelle.
The epitome of the best in Fringe performance, actor, director, story teller, mimic, mime, creator of stage events that are completely original, Martin Dockery is back in Ottawa under the fringe spotlight with his just as brilliant partner Vanessa Quesnelle. The woman with the velvet singing voice that one could listen to all day, as the character says in this show, also proves how she can hold her own in this brief encounter that appears to be improvised but that is tightly scripted I was told.
A singer has hired the character played by Dockery to make a recording of her latest song. It all takes place in her apartment while her husband it out. Simple enough; however as emotions heat up, unexpected information is discovered, the simple arrangement becomes an accumulation of complex possibilities and relationships that make the dialogue more and more ambiguous as the interlocutors, avoid clear answers, respond to questions with questions, and create an atmosphere of mistrust that persists until the very end, which in itself is purposely unclear.
June 17, 2016 Friday at 1:49 pm
Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska
It is hard enough to raise a child as a single parent, but try to raise a daughter as a single father, and you face a real challenge. Well-known Canadian poet, spoken word artist and motivational speaker Dwayne Morgan talks about that difficult time when his daughter reaches puberty, and the father takes on the role of the mother. How do you explain the changes her body is going through and how do you deal with other new issues that will come soon? Morgan’s story explores not only a father-daughter relationship, but much more than that. He incorporates in his narrative problems of growing up in today’s wold, such as sexism, racism, and generally cruelty that a sheltered young girl does not know. (more…)
June 17, 2016 Friday at 10:46 am