Capital Critics' Circle
Le cercle des critiques de la capitale

Reviewing Theatre in Canada's Capital Region
La critique théâtrale de la région Ottawa-Gatineau

The NAC King of the Yees fails to mesh

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

King of Yees. Provided by the NAC English Theatre

 

 

So whats exactly happening on the stage of the Babs Asper Theatre at the National Arts Centre? Well now,  let’s see. There are such ingredients as identity angst, the generation gap, urban politics, racial stereotyping, cultural dislocation, a search for “meaning” in life. We also get smidgeons of naturalism, surrealism, dada, Brechtian and absurdist devices glued together by low-vaudeville buffoonery — all hopefully stirred into American playwright Lauren Yee’s dramatic pot in expectation of a coherent whole. A picturesquely conceived lion occasionally makes a manic appearance along with a chiropractor who’s really a sadistic needle-plunging acupuncturist — or is he actually a herbalist? There’s a swaggering caricature of aTong gangster — Shrimp Boy by name — whose presence triggers a street shoot-out that manages to throw an already discordant offering even more off track. (Continue reading » )

Sir John A: Acts of Gentrified Ojibway Rebellion on stage at the NAC.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Colony Of Unrequited Dreams: Less Than Meets The Eye

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Photo: Colin Furlong as Joey Smallwood. Credit: Paul Daly

One suspects that the National Arts Centre’s production of The Colony Of Unrequited Dreams will have its greatest success with those playgoers who haven’t read the Wayne Johnston novel that inspired it.

Playwright Robert Chafe’s earnest, well-intentioned adaptation frequently manages to engage the viewer — although on a somewhat brittle level. But it lacks the epic sweep and emotional resonance of Johnston’s fictional recreation of the early life of legendary Newfoundland Premier Joseph Smallwood and his campaign to bring a proud but troubled island nation into Canada in 1949. Indeed, Jillian Keiley’s production, although revelling in fancy visuals and clever bits of business, never really communicates the high stakes involved in the countdown to Confederation. Given that the turbulent referendum vote required a second run-off, such lack of tension is astonishing

Not just astonishing — also perplexing, given the drama that engulfed so much of Joey Smallwood’s life and career. But it’s also fair to suggest that it must have been  a daunting challenge for Chafe even to try to get into the maddening, calculating mind of this so-called “last father of Confederation.” Wayne Johnston’s original attempt to do so in the novel went on for more than 500 pages, many of them devoted to Joey’s own first-person narrative. As tends to be the case with this type of memoir, whether true or fictional, you keep wondering how reliable the narrator really is — or, in this instance, is intended to be. (Continue reading » )

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: Brilliantly performed, directed, and adapted

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Photo: Paul Daly

In the Playwright’s Notes, the playwright, Robert Chafe, writes: “The history buff will have no trouble calling me out. But I made my primary task to reflect the spirit and heart of this magnificent book within the often-confining demands of a stage play.” That is exactly what he does. Hard, cold facts about Newfoundland’s first premier Joey Smallwood, and the role he played in bringing the Dominion of Newfoundland into Canada’s confederation can be found in any number of books. Chafe’s adaptation of Wayne Johnston novel Colony of Unrequited Dreams brings much more to the stage than that. It brings back the time, the place and people during a time of great change in Newfoundland. (Continue reading » )

The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: A fractious relationship

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Photo: Colin Furlong as Joey Smallwood. Credit: Paul Daly

Joey Smallwood, the diminutive guy who led Newfoundland into Confederation in 1949:  with a subject like that, audience members for The Colony of Unrequited Dreams could be forgiven for fearing an evening of excruciating boredom.

They would also be proven dead wrong.

Adapted by Robert Chafe from Wayne Johnston’s celebrated 1998 historical novel of the same name, the play is an enthralling glimpse into the heart of the earnest and tenacious Smallwood, into the soul of his beloved Newfoundland, and into Smallwood’s complicated relationship with a caustic newspaper columnist named Sheilagh Fielding. (Continue reading » )

Two Versions of A Christmas Carol in Ottawa: Jamie Portman confronts the NAC production with the production at The Gladstone. Much to contemplate!!!

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Andy Jones as Scrooge at the  NAC.

                                                                        John D. Huston as Dickens

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There’s no doubt that the National Arts Centre has unleashed an intriguing production of something this Yuletide season. And yes, it purports to be A Christmas Carol —   indeed the printed program tells us that  the Dickens classic has been adapted and directed by Jillian Keiley, the NAC’s restlessly inventive head of English theatre.

(Continue reading » )

A Christmas Carol at the NAC: NAC English Theatre finds fresh perspective in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Final Review posted by Patrick Langston in the Ottawa Citizen!!   December 17, 2016.  PatrickLangston  We wish him well.

A Christmas Carol at NAC English Theatre

A Christmas Carol at NAC English Theatre Photographer: John Lauener / –

Bringing Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol to the stage is a risky business. The story is as well known as that of Adam and Eve – indeed, there’s something of The Fall and subsequent Redemption in Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey from innocent boyhood to miserly misery and finally into bliss – and finding a fresh interpretation of Dickens’s tale can be tough.

The NAC English Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol, newly adapted by director Jillian Keiley and starring Andy Jones as Scrooge, finds that fresh perspective and does so with élan. (Continue reading » )