Photo. Marianne Duval
Ivona is probably the most unlikely bride-to-be for a prince. She is a commoner, ugly, slouchy, highly unsociable, and has no manners at all. Still, the young prince, bored with the every-day palace life, chooses her for her fiancé. At first she serves as an object of practical jokes for courtiers and the reason for despair for his royal parents. As time goes by, it seems that this insignificant creature gets in everybody’s way. It is not the inconvenience of her presence or her sloppy ways that bother the courtiers. Day after day, gradually, Ivona manages to bring out their worst in her peers, and even worse, she begins to remind them of their own carefully hidden faults. By the end, she is too much for everybody’s comfort, and the decision is unanimous: Ivona must die.
Witold Gombrowicz wrote this play seven decades ago, but it is still as current as ever. His work is little known on the North American continent, but lately it has found its way to the theatres of United States and Canada (last year – 2012 – the play was performed by the Performance Art Institute, San Francisco). His characters are personifications of ideas and as such best suited for the Theatre of Absurd. Ekaterina Shestakova fully seized the potential of Gombrowicz’s work and developed it further into an exceptional theatrical experience. In her clear artistic vision, well-defined frame was filled with scenes seamlessly connected by a perfect pace. She steadily added elements of abstract to the realistic, turning the stage into a bizarre place where, finally, the characters did not exist any more, but in their place appeared ideas in human shape; even more so because all sins presented in the play are very human. The second act erupted with tension and emotion, the artistic chaos a perfect portrayal of our inner, tormented one.
A brilliantly and effectively designed set adds to the atmosphere – from a playful fashion show, through frantic attempts to bring back the old and comfortable routine, to the bleak moments when the concealed realities which leads to madness surface, it intensifies the mood of each scene.
The acting could have been better – actors could use some help in the speech and diction area. There were a few moments where the energy was lacking, but there were some excellent performances, as well. Simon L. Lalande was very convincing in a role of Lord Chamberlain. Jaclyn Martinez as the Queen gave her all, especially in the second set, proving to be a star in the making. Her last scenes brought the very idea of Witold Gombrowicz’s best-known work Princess Ivona to life.
This is Ekaterina Shestakova’s final directing project in directing program at the University of Ottawa. The show is absolutely worth seeing. I hope to see more from her in the near future. <
Presented by: Unicorn Theatre
by Witold Gombrowicz
Directed by Ekaterina Shestakova