The Ghomeshi Effect: Brilliant concept that needs more work

Reviewed by Maja Stefanovska

Categories: Professional Theatre

Photo: Andrew Alexander

In the Director’s notes of The Ghomeshi Effect’s program, director Jessica Ruano states: “…safety isn’t often what I’m seeking at a night out at the theatre…curiosity can be dangerous. Curiosity means: I’m prepared for anything, even if it’s not what I want to hear. Even if it upsets me. Even if I fundamentally disagree. Even if it challenges something I’ve believed for as long as I can remember.” The Ghomeshi Effect is a much needed addition to the conversation about sexual assault and has already sparked conversation over the treatment of survivors by the justice system. By encouraging discussion, Perspective Collective Theatre has already fulfilled its mandate. Is it theatre that provokes, upsets, or pushes its audience to confront uncomfortable facts? Not particularly, outside of the facts it presents. Other than a few emotionally charged moments, the verbatim dance piece fails to invoke intense emotion, considering the moving subject matter. The Ghomeshi Effect is a great concept and one that absolutely needs to be explored further. It’s empowering, as it gives voice to survivors’ experiences, told in their own words. Unfortunately, the gravity of the message gets lost amid the weak dramaturgy directing, lights, and choreography.

The Ghomeshi Effect is a dance-theatre piece that uses documented interviews to tackles sexual violence in Canada, particularly how it is handled in the justice system. The show deals with heavy themes and presents stories and facts that are hard to swallow. It doesn’t come off as preachy and, for the most part, presents mere facts that the audience is then left to digest for themselves. The survivors’ stories presented were heart-wrenching, but could have been made more poignant had some of them been given more context.

As presented by director Jessica Ruano and choreographer Amelia Griifin, the show is still unevenly paced and messy. The show would benefit from more showing and less telling. for much of the time, performers stand on stage and spew facts or stories. Telling stories comes off as much safer emotionally than showing the effect these stories have on their participants. The performers’ movements sometimes glide together seamlessly, but there are also moments when they seem to be in each other’s way, which throws off the rhythm of the show. The team also misses small details in the production, such as the noise of desks being moved around which end up drowning out performers’ voices. Likewise, there are times where the choreography, which certainly has its powerful moments, seems disconnected from the text.

The crew has some great ideas for lighting. One particularly powerful moment is when the spotlight is pointed at the audience, reminding us we are all implicated in the discussion. However, the potential is once again undermined by the execution. There are times where the actors are engulfed in needless darkness, or the shadows created on their faces got in the way of seeing their facial expressions.

Leah Archambault is a standout performer in The Ghomeshi Effect. She is a powerful dancer and actress who masterfully conveys emotion through her body. At no point do movement and verbal expression battle against each other, but instead meld together to underscore the pain, horror, and strength of the characters she portrays. Gabrielle Lalonde is another bright light. Her bilingual portrayal of facts and characters is strong and clear.

Shows like The Ghomeshi Effect should be supported and I believe in the potential greatness of this particular show. As presented now, it comes off as unfinished – the tools to make it great are present, but more time needs to be spent on the execution and refining it. Starting discussions about such difficult topics as sexual assault is always to be applauded and I certainly hope the crew continues to work on the show to refine it and make it the truly great piece of art it has the potential of being.

The Ghomeshi Effect

Perspective Collective Theatre

Creator/Director: Jessica Ruano

Choreographer: Amelia Griffin

Cast:

Leah Archambault

Marc-André Charette

Gabrielle Lalonde

Annie Lefebvre

Emmanuel Simon

Mekdes Teshome

Cast

Lighting Designer: Benoît Brunet-Poirier

Sound Designer: Martin Dawagne

Visual Artis (Floor Design): Mique Michelle

Stage Manager: Jess Preece

Marketing Manager: Nina Jane Drystek

Graphic Design/Video: Shawn Descarie

Photographer: Andrew Alexander

Production Assistants: Kalynn Sawyer Helmer, Manal Ghadban, Patrick Beadury


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