Theatre Schools / University Theatre

American Idiot: High-energy production saves the show.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

American Idiot, music by Green Day, lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong, book by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer

University of Ottawa Musical Theatre Society, directed by Storm Davis

American Idiot bursts onto the stage into the raucous noise of punk rock that one of the cast members says in her bio takes her back to her fifth grade grunge days.

The 2010 musical is based on the 2004 concept album of the same name — incorporating protest against the war in Iraq, anger with American society and disaffected and angry youth trying to escape (from what?) to find a purpose in life.

The book (if that’s not too strong a word) for the very slight story line by lyricist Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer focuses on three young men — one who joins the army and is blinded, a second who fathers a child and drowns in alcohol and a third self-destructive would-be rebel whose father predicted he would never amount to anything.

The sing-through (shout-through) musical about dead-end lives and disappointment is surprisingly upbeat as presented by the University of Ottawa Musical Theatre Society. (more…)

Attempts on Her Life: Brave, bold, modern, challenging, creative

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

“Attempts on Her Life” is written by postmodern British playwright Martin Crimp, but has been entirely interpreted by Peter James Haworth, which is probably the only regularity in a highly irregular play. I say ‘regularity’ only because that is exactly the way Crimp works. Narrative is not his focus, therefore his dialogues are meaningless. The stage resembles madhouse whose residents are lost in nothingness. Reality disappears, lucid identity is non-existent, and lives are lived in a virtual world shaped by media.   

The story – if one can talk about a story at all – revolves around Anne, the only character in the play. That is, if we can talk about character at all. Anne is not on the stage. She might be already dead, still alive, in the neighbourhood, or somewhere very far. Everybody talks about her, trying to shape her, disagrees about who she is, but in spite of all of that, here she is. She occupies our minds, our thoughts and becoming more real than we are. Welcome to the modern world of advanced technology and consumerism wrapped up into a global capitalism. In seventeen apparently disconnected scenes, groups of people talk about her as a terrorist, a porno star, a tourist hostess, a daughter of grieving parents, a suicide artist and even as a car. Crimp does not express his opinion; he does not create atmosphere or protagonist and anti-protagonists. In his emotionally detached work, he leaves every possible interpretation to the director.

There is no point in trying to understand a deeper meaning of the story (because there is none).  (more…)

Ottawa Fringe 2016: Miss Bruce’s War is One of a Kind.

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.

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Ottawa Fringe 2016 : Fugee Is A Show That Deserves Attention

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

British playwright Abi Morgan has always sought to strike a connection between the political and the personal — and her influences come from the left. She reveres the thorny lack of compromise shown over the years by a radical filmmaker like Ken Loach, and she makes no apologies about injecting unabashed polemic into her own work. But she is also so good at her craft that producers were ready to entrust her with the screenplay for The Iron Lady, a portrait of a major political figure, Margaret Thatcher, that she and her family hated.

Morgan is, in brief, a writer worthy of attention, and Ottawa’s Third Wall Academy deserves our warmest thanks for introducing Fringe audiences to Fugee, a lacerating account of how the system is failing refugee children. In her 2008 script, Morgan was zeroing in on the British situation, but with its sense of emotional horror and hopelessness, the play’s implications occupy a wider canvas.

The central character, Kojo, is a child from the Ivory Coast, an innocent whose once idyllic existence was brutally changed forever on his 11th birthday. When he first meet him, he has seemingly made it to safety and a new life. But he has no English and no passport, and his age is in question. Even within the security of a children’s refugee centre, the system is about to start tearing him apart — be it through latent prejudice, outright hostility, or bureaucratic indifference. And we keep being pulled back to the play’s first horrific image — of Kojo fatally knifing another youth on the street. And we keep asking why that tragedy happened.

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Fringe Festival 2016: Fugee a timely play with some excellent performances.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

Fugee : Directed by James Richardson, written by Abi Morgan. A production of the Third Wall Academy

Third Wall Academy has made enormous strides in its theatre training this year, especially related to its actor training, with its production of this moving, and very timely play by Abi Morgan. It brings us into the world of child refugees from around the world, while emphasizing the horrors of Child Soldiers that have been discussed in much African literature recently, including the award winning novel by writer Ahmadou Kourouma (Allah Is Not Obliged 2007) from the Côte D’ivoire, also the country of origin of 14 year-old Kojo, the young French-speaking character at the centre of this performance. Kojo is submerged in the unfathomable noises of an English speaking refugee centre, as a narrative filled with flashbacks, confused memories of his family, gives us the background of this youth who is the focus of this play.

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Pool (no Water): Mark Ravenhill et Pamela Feghali cernent l’horreur du monde artistique!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

 Pool (No Water) - u Ottawa

Photo: Marianne Duval

Pamela Feghali (MFA-mise en scène ) et son équipe de production nous font découvrir le monde théâtral tourmenté du britannique Mark Ravenhill qui, avec Sarah Kane, avait déjà attiré le regard de Thomas Ostermeier, le directeur du Schaubuhne à Berlin. Maintenant , nous voilà plongés au cœur d’un des auteurs contemporains des plus provocateurs.  Dans un premier temps, quatre comédiens se promènent sur une piste légèrement en pente qui évoque à la fois un bateau de croisière et une piste de mode où les acteurs s’exhibent à la manière des mannequins bohémiens. Nous pensons immédiatement à la scénographie conçue par Margaret Coderre-William à l’occasion de Princess Ivona (Gombrowicz) qu’Ekaterina Shestakova avait présentée en 2013 sur la même scène, avec une équipe d’étudiants différents. Aujourd’hui, la scénographie de Brian Smith est semblable mais la pièce nous mène dans un sens tout à fait différent. Ravenhill présente une critique farouche du milieu artistique en forme de monologue, proféré par « I », « She », « We » et « Us », les pulsions individuelles et collectives qui animent chacune de ces voix parlantes .

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They Won’t pay? We Won’t pay! Algonquin Students take on Dario Fo and make it work!!

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

A local conflict between a group of Italian housewives and the manager of a small town food store sets off the action within the first minutes. Fo doesn’t waste any time! The women realize the store has raised food prices and the locals can’t afford to buy food any more. Even now the play is still up to date! Lead by the vibrant Antonia (Emi Lanthier) outspoken activist for consumer’s rights, the opinions of the shoppers become physical, tempers flare, a full-fledged riot breaks out. The play opens as Antonia and her friend Margherita (Charlotte Weeks) come bursting into Antonia’s apartment with bags of food they have stolen from the store during the riot, after proclaiming a general strike by all the people in the story! We will no longer pay for food they chant!! . What will the husbands say? How will they hide the food they have stolen. ? What can they do to avoid any more problems? How will other groups of workers react to this outrageous and very courageous showing of social consciousness and solidarity?

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Les Reines de Normand Chaurette: on retient surtout le merveilleux travail des comédiennes.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Un décor gris de désolation  balayé par un vent ronflant qui glace le sang… On entend la tempête qui fait rage, et des lambeaux de tissus, pendus sur un alignement de châssis peints, laissent deviner de fantomatiques créatures, rongées par le désir le plus viscéral du pouvoir. Les six figures féminines font leur apparition et nous projettent aussitôt dans un paysage mental inquiétant. Une création efficace, vu la difficulté du texte, et l’expérience limitée de ces jeunes actrices, inscrites au programme de formation  théâtrale à l’Université d’Ottawa.
Conçu par Normand Chaurette, dramaturge et romancier québécois, (le seul qui ait eu les honneurs de la Comédie-Française), cette pièce, collage d’extraits de Titus Andronicus, Henri VI, Richard II, et surtout Richard III de Shakespeare, regroupe des femmes qui ont joué un rôle important dans l’histoire anglaise, telle que l’a vue William Shakespeare.
L’auteur transforme cette  représentation historique en matière psychique, ce qui change évidemment la vision que l’on a de ces femmes à la scène,  alors qu’ici on ne voit jamais les hommes… Le roi Édouard IV se meurt, et les reines attendent la suite. Ici, elles font le tour de la scène dans une attente quasi-hystérique, déchirent  la syntaxe, et crachent leur rage, leur jalousie et leur désespoir, puisque leur avenir repose, malgré tout, entre les mains des hommes!

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Les Reines: A play worth any stage in Canada!

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

Graphic courtesy of the Department of Theatre at the University of Ottawa

Graphic courtesy of the Department of Theatre at the University of Ottawa

Normand Chaurette’ play Les Reines is one of the best examples of surrealism in literature. Inspired by Shakespeare’s play Richard III, he looks at the political events of the late fifteenth century in England from the women’s perspective.

The play starts at the end of the 15th century when the king of England, Edward IV, is dying. His death is followed by a succession of tragedies. In his greed for power, the future king, Richard III, is about to kill two sons of the queen Elizabeth. At that time, urged by their own aspiration for the throne, six queens, Queen Elizabeth, the Warick sisters Anne and Isabelle, Queen Margaret, Anne Dexter and the old Duchess of York, come to the castle. There, they live out their nightmares, fight for royal ambitions and struggle with personal terrors. Either as mothers, present or future queens or wives, they wrestle their own demons. Craving power, they are unable to separate the royal from the personal. Therefore, in the atmosphere of inevitable death and in their confusion and powerlessness to change destiny, they throw their fears at each other. (more…)

Love’s Labour’s Lost: U of O Students Tackle One Of Shakespeare’s Trickiest Plays

Reviewed by Jamie Portman

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Photo. Marianne Duval.

There’s a lovely moment early in the University of Ottawa’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost when Ryan Young, in the role of an affable rustic named Costard. lopes into view and plunges into some nimble word play involving the words “manner” and “form.”

The sequence is a showy indulgence, like so much of this early Shakespearean comedy, but it leaves you in a forgiving mood. An essential requirement of the play is being met: we are getting a delightful fusion of language and character.

It happens again in the scenes involving that fantastical Spaniard, Don Adriano de Armado, portrayed with delicate affectation by an excellent Darcy Smith, and his precocious page, Moth, played with appropriate merriment by Sine Robinson. Language is again the driving force here — with the play’s penchant for elaborate and mannered speech being stretched to its extreme here — but Smith remains grounded in his character. Don Adriano may be a parody of the courtly lover, but here it’s a genuinely affectionate one

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