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

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

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

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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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Jane Eyre: an adaptation of the novel that translates verbal description into spacial artistry”

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage  

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Photo from the site of  Front Row Centre.

The National Theatre of London’s adaptation of Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre that reached us live by satellite recently was the result of a collective effort on the part of all the actors, so we were told during interviews conducted during the intermission.  Ultimately, it was  Sally Cookson who imposed the final directorial choices,  intent on emphasizing the strength of this legendary heroine, who survived çruel  treatment at the hands of her “step” family .

The play opens with the birth of little Jane who is passed on to her Aunt  upon the death of her uncle and from that point on, much attention is focussed on  the aggression and meanness to which she was subjected as a young girl. Madeleine Worrall as Jane Eyre in this early portion of the play purses her lips, squints, tightens her facial muscles and shows us what a tough little creature she is becoming  as she swallows the insults, the taunting, and  vicious behaviour of her cousins and aunt who toss her off  though she were some filthy Cinderella. The fable becomes an  adult horror story  that allows our heroine to rise out of the emotional rubble and establish her own strong presence as a mature woman.

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The Hard Problem: Challenging, Amusing and Intelligent but not Stoppard at his best.

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage   ,

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Photo by John Persson .  Olivia Vinall as Hilary.

As patrons shuffled out of the Cineplex theatre in Ottawa Thursday evening, after th NTL showing of The Hard Problem, the new play by Tom Stoppard, his first play since 2006 (Rock’n Roll) and the first for the National Theatre since his Trilogy The Coast of Utopia in 2002, the general impression seemed to be exactly what was mentioned in the title of Michael Billington’s review , published in “the Guardian” January 29: “the work occasionally suffers from information overload”, something which would not be difficult to document, especially if one had the text on hand . Clearly without the text, most of the details of the arguments are difficult to retain.

As well, the vocabulary is always taken from areas of specialisation as they are bantered back and forth by these scientists who are all specialists in their own fields: cognitive science which is questioned as a science, evolutionary or behavioural biology; genetics, analysis of the brain are linked to science as opposed to the study of the mind. The study of the mind is not a science whereas the study of the brain is linked to human biology and is a science. If this is so, how does one experiment on human consciousness? How does one analyse the “mind”.which has no material substance? Later the question arises related to the fact that materialsm is a philosophy, does that mean it can be put in the same category as the belief in God? Is that scientific?  And the ideas roll round in the laboratory and board rooms of the KROHL institute of Brain Science where all these nine characters find themselves, employees or students in this research institute, where they are trying to define human consciousness.

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A View From the Bridge by Arthur Miller: a tragic ritual of great human proportions.

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage   ,

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Photo from National Theatre Live (A Young Vic production). Michael Gould (lawyer) and Mark Strong (Eddie Carbone) Centre stage.

Written in 1955, this play has had several rewritings where the ending especially has taken on different forms. This London version corresponds to the final published version where Eddie dies in his wife’s arms. Especially after the 1942 film starring Raf Vallone,  the play became a classic of cinematic neo realism or even Zola-like naturalism that  we always associate Miller’s dramaturgy .  Miller’s  stark naturalism fore grounds the complex psychology of the characters and  here, Ivo Van Hove captures the deeply troubling psychological turmoil of Eddie Carbone the Longshoreman and patriarch of his New York family composed of Beatrice his wife, Catherine his niece , 2 young illeagal Sicilian immigrant cousins Rodolpho and Marco. As a relationship develops between Catherine and Rodolpho, Carbone’s hostility to this young man turns the uncle into a tense, brooding , jealous, angry creature who ultimately gives in to a most hateful gesture that has tragic consequences. The question of Illeagal immigration is dealt with in the play, as the director mentions in a preshow interview, and that is what gives the event a certain immediacy in relation to recent events in the United States.

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Fela : un hommage brillant au musicien, compositeur et activiste indépendantiste nigérien.

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage   ,

Mise en scène et chorégraphie de Bill T. Jones.

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La création de FELA, qui a eu lieu à New York en 2009 a pris fin le 2 janvier 2011, la veille de l’ouverture de la production britannique au National Theatre de London. Pourtant tout continue comme avant. Le chorégraphe Bill T. Jones continue sa direction de l’ensemble, le même acteur assure le rôle principal, beaucoup de danseurs et musiciens ont traversé la mer pour poursuivre cette aventure artistique en Angleterre.

Le spectacle, un hommage au musicien, compositeur et activiste indépendantiste nigérien Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, mort en 1997, est d’une beauté extraordinaire mais il est beaucoup plus que beau et divertissant. Il renouvelle le genre musical en le rapprochant de la danse moderne et de l’opéra populaire, un peu à la manière d’une œuvre de Brecht illuminée par les Orishas du Panthéon Yoruba, le Jazz moderne, la musique de Bob Marley, les rythmes traditionnels africains et un récit politique violente et tragique. Fela est tout cela…et encore.

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