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Schoolhouse gets failing grade

Reviewed by Iris Winston

Photo: Kanata Theatre

Schoolhouse

By Leanna Brodie

Kanata Theatre

Directed by Joy Forbes

 One scene in Schoolhouse depicts an amateurish production of a Christmas play. The sequence would be more amusing if it were a greater contrast to most of the other episodic scenes in a non-drama that drags from beginning to end.

Part of the problem is with the production style of this 2006 memory play by Leanna Brodie and part of the issue is that the writing is simply not particularly interesting.

Certainly, the one-room schoolhouse of yesteryear is remembered with affection by former students, teachers and, indeed, the entire community surrounding it. In rural areas across Canada, the small school was a social as well as an educational centre and so almost as important as the main church in the vicinity.

Other plays — Anne of Green Gables, for example — have made the school a key part of a drama or musical. Most recently, Elmwood School presented Jean Duce Palmer’s Miss Bruce’s War. Like Schoolhouse, Palmer’s drama is a memory play. Unlike, the choppy, episodic Schoolhouse, Miss Bruce’s War has gentle charm and a believable flow and the high-school production was outstanding. (more…)

No Man’s Land: Complex portrayal of memory loss captures much more in the world of Pinter.

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Photo courtesy of National Theatre Live. Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart

Those of us who cannot dash off to London, now have the chance to see some of the greatest English language theatrical productions in the world  as filmed theatre comes to our  local cinemas by satellite.  

This version of Harold Pinter’s   No Man’s Land, filmed from the Wyndham Theatre in London’s West End is just one of those wonders. It was originally produced at the Old Vic in 1975   starring the “two sirs” John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson and has since toured and been given numerous productions. 

In this case, the show was followed by an excellent question and answer period which let us see these actors , also two sirs, who are old friends, going  back to their first contact with this play and with the theatre in general. In fact this experience was all the more special for us because it reveals the complicity of the actors, as if it were all taking place in the real home of Patrick Stewart (Hirst), who had just invited Ian McKellen (Spooner) in for a drink and then by accident spilt coffee on his jacket and had to wipe it off with a napkin! “That did happen” said Stewart “but I didn’t think anything of it, I just wiped! “  Of course we  are “pissed” adds McKellen so delicately  but even when we learn that the characters have just met in a pub in upper crust  Hampstead Heath, it doesn’t quite seem possible because of the closeness  they exude along with a slightly playful familiarity that feeds the  naturalism of their performance style. 

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The Norman Conquests: Round and Round the Garden an absolute treat packaged in a good laugh

Reviewed by Rajka Stefanovska

AL Connors as Norman and Margo MacDonald as Sarah Photo by David Whiteley

AL Connors as Norman and Margo MacDonald as Sarah
Photo by David Whiteley

The Norman Conquests is a trilogy. It takes place in a family house in the British countryside, where Annie lives with her invalid mother. She plans to spend a weekend with her sister’s (Ruth) husband, Norman, in a hotel. Everything is set. Her admirer and neighbour Tom believes that she is to go alone, but actually wants him to come with her and Annie’s brother Reg and his wife Sara come to stay with their mother for that weekend. However, somehow things come askew, and they all  end up spending the weekend together as Annie’s guests. 

In the third part of The Norman Conquests, Round and Round the Garden, Ayckbourn still deals with the same domestic issues as in the previous two (Table Manners and Living Together). The characters are the same and it is the same weekend, but while Table Manners takes place in the dining room and Living Together in the living room, Round and Round the Garden is set in the garden. With the last part of the trilogy performed, this outstanding play wraps up in a meaningful way as a combination of a comedy of manners, domestic turmoil and above all, a fantastic character study.

Although comedy might seem to be a lighter genre of drama because of its humorous approach to reality, it is probably the hardest one to pull off. Because it is so easy to go overboard and make it a clownish non-artistic performance, it demands a huge amount of talent and innate sense of balance.     (more…)

GCTC’S Timely Production of Michael Healey’s Politically Potent Generous Wholly Successful

Reviewed by Kat Fournier

Photo: Andrew Alexander

Photo: Andrew Alexander

The war room is abuzz. The government may have just lost their majority and heads are going to roll. A power-hungry Prime Minister is surrounded by a bumbling group of cabinet ministers in the PMO, each obviously too stupid, too self-involved, or too guileless to be real, though the verisimilitude didn’t always escape me. Amidst the senseless commotion, a women has lurched her way into the middle of the room, her hands clutching her bleeding abdomen.

This, the first scene of Michael Healey’s Generous, playing at the GCTC and directed by Eric Coates, is the perfectly grotesque entry-point to a darkly comedic play. The government, corporate oil, media, and the Supreme Court are the objects of Healey’s play, but the subject is the virtue of generosity in the public service; and it’s not cleanly palatable when it’s found. From murder, to the spotless opinion of a naïve reporter, or the unsolicited attention that we’d rather not have, generosity takes many forms. Healey portrays a complicated kind of generosity as it plays out in the most powerful influencers in Canadian society.

Healey’s script is twisted, and dark, and its structure is deliberately disjointed. The three scenes that span the two acts of this play present three distinct storylines and flank a fifteen year gap, leaving the audience off balance. This theatrical device helps to pull the audience away from their expectation of a typical narrative structure. Though the scenes seem to mimic reality, they aren’t grounded in naturalism. Michael Healey’s script is intensely wordy, for example. The characters sink into extensive, heady, monologues that feel meta-theatrical and self-aware. (more…)

San goes beyond the boundaries with blend of theatre, music and film

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

Photo: John Kenney / Montreal Gazette

Photo: John Kenney / Montreal Gazette

The city may be an indifferent, sometimes cruel place. But it can still harbour grace and love even if you’re an almost-obsolete robot infatuated with an office worker who’s as much a misfit as you. That’s the ultimately hopeful upshot of Nufonia Must Fall Live!, the gentle puppet-show-with-a-difference by Eric San, a.k.a. Montreal-based scratch DJ and music producer Kid Koala, that’s been making a splash at home and abroad since it debuted last year.

Based on his own 2003 graphic novel and soundtrack Nufonia Must Fall, San’s multidisciplinary show employs real-time filming of more than a dozen miniature stages and a cast of white puppets, with the video projected on a screen at the rear of the stage.

The audience can make out the puppeteers and camera people as they go about their business on stage. Koala and the Afiara Quartet provide live — and alternately sad, lush and disquieting — music on piano, strings and turntables at stage rear. (more…)

Puppets UP. International Puppet Festival in Almonte

Reviewed by Alvina Ruprecht

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Hungarian puppeteer Andres Lenart during the Mikropodium show at the 9th season of the Puppets Up! International Festival in Almonte on August 10th and 11th,

Photograph by: Bruno Schlumberger, Ottawa Citizen

More comments coming…Performance on Sunday at 4pm in the Ultramar  Theatre in  Almonte.

The Edward Curtis Project: A beautiful picture that could use a touch up

Reviewed by Jeunes critiques

Kevin Loring as the Chief
Photo: Andrew Alexander

By Tyler Dasberg

Marie Clements, both writer and director of The Edward Curtis Project, presents a piece of theatre that is not unlike an alarm clock. It wakes you up with the occasional exciting, beautiful image, but when you hit the snooze button, you fall right back to sleep.  Playing at the GCTC and presented by the NAC English Theatre, it is a “visually stunning” production; however, melodramatic acting and non-effective storytelling obscure the important stories trying to be conveyed.

It is a drama about a Métis reporter named Angeline (Quelemia Sparrow), who after learning about a poignant story, involving the deaths of three Native children, begins to explore the strength and spirit of Aboriginal identity, the ethics of her profession, and the difficulties of being a witness. She interacts with photographer Edward Curtis (Todd Duckworth) and with his trail of photos that document the desertion of the North American Indian and falsely portray them as an impoverished, inebriated, and helpless people. (more…)

Innocence Lost: Truscott the Explorer is Canada’s Dora

Reviewed by Jeunes critiques

Alex Brunjes is a student in Yana Meerzon’s Theatre Criticism course at the University of Ottawa.

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Photo: Canada Wilde. Steven Truscott.

As much as I would like to say the National Art Centre’s English Theatre production of Innocence Lost is enjoyable and that Roy Surette’s interpretation of Beverly Cooper’s memory play is unforgettable – let me assure you that it is neither of those things. The acting was safe, the set was simple and the use of multimedia was visually taxing. After seeing this production, I felt as though I had just sat through a children’s television show, attempting to educate or brainwash me into questioning the judicial system.

Innocence Lost tells the history of the Steven Truscott trial. It begins after the rape and murder of Lynne Harper in Clinton, Ontario, and runs to Truscott’s acquittal in 2007, exploring the different perspectives of the townspeople involved. While the beginning of the history is drawn out, showing the traumatic experiences of Truscott’s family and friends, the conclusion is rushed leaving audiences hungry for more. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately), there is no sequel.

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God of Carnage: Get Uncivilized!

Reviewed by Jeunes critiques

Jenna Naulls is a student in the theatre critics course taught by Yana Meerzon at the U of Ottawa

After an 18 month hiatus, Third Wall is back with a vengeance. They have proven that if you take a risk, a functional and symbolic set, a sharp script and a group of well-known equity actors, you can make anything happen. This production of “God of Carnage” was certainly worth the wait.

The story focuses on two married couples (Alain and Anette Reille and Michel and Veronique Vallon) who are meeting in the living room of the Vallon residence to discuss a physical altercation between their two sons. Over the course of their conversation, the civilized demeanour of the four adults breaks down and leaves them acting like children themselves. They question each other’s every action and intention; Anette vomits from stress, Michel breaks out the rum and Veronique empties the entire contents of Anette’s purse on the ground. They tear each other, and themselves, down until a number of them whisper, “This is the worst day of my life”.

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Julius Caesar: Contemporary Razzle Dazzle that Captures the Heart of Shakespeare’s Play

Reviewed by Patrick Langston

Eugene A. Clark (in the red tie) is a Gemini-winning actor, but he wasn’t convincing in the role of Caesar in this production by the Ottawa Shakespeare Company.Photo: Chris Miulka —

Brutus must never have heard the expression, “Better the devil you know than the one you don’t.” Otherwise, he might well have refused to join with Cassius and his co-conspirators in the assassination of Julius Caesar, an act that brings on the demons of civil strife and personal tragedy.

Then again, had Brutus heeded that expression we would have had neither William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar nor its engaging, if flawed, new version by director Charles McFarland and the Ottawa Shakespeare Company.

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