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 Elephant Girls….Critics’ pick for the Ottawa Fringe Festival 2015

Reviewed by on    Arts News, Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

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Best show:      The Elephant Girls: this original show was the result of  historical research which could possibly become an important text in the Canadian repertoire. Margo Macdonald’s excellent interpretation took the actor into an area of solo performance that was uncharted  for her and could be the beginning of a new orientation of her own stage work.

(Continue reading » )

The Elephant Girls

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

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Gritty, powerful and excellently crafted, The Elephant Girls is an astounding story that transports its audience to a bar in historic, inter-war London, England. Here at the Ottawa Fringe, we are fortunate to have seen the world premiere of a show that will undoubtedly become a great success.

We meet Maggie Hale (Margo MacDonald), a member of the infamous girl-gang, the Elephant Girls, in a bar where she spins a tale about her years at the right-hand of ruthless gang leader Alice Diamonds. Pint after pint, Hale’s dark humour starts to reveal the truth beyond the stories we might think we know….

This is an excellent example of historic playwriting – one that is not only well-researched and dramaturgically sound, but one that feels intentional. The story is framed such that the audience is treated as if we’ve stumbled into a bar, and into the arms of the notorious Hale who is half in the bag and ready to talk. This endows the story with a sense of realism, which is further actualized through Mary Ellis’ clever direction.

But the story is also purposed. MacDonald weaves Hale’s sexuality into the plot—a lesbian in London in the early 1900s would be quite subversive —and what begins as a bit of an elbow-nudge slowly morphs into something much more meaningful. A repressed shame surfaces throughout Hale’s story, and the audience learns that she is an outcast who has found shelter in the arms of the Elephant Girls.

The story is one that will slowly draw you in as fiction gives way to fact. Though she has a gritty exterior, Hale’s sense of humour masks violence, sadness, and periods of deep isolation. MacDonald is a powerful actor, and now, it seems, a powerful writer as well.

THE ELEPHANT GIRLS

by Margo MacDonald / Parry Riposte Productions

Venue Léonard Beaulne studio.

Critics’ Short List for Critics’ Picks award for the Ottawa Fringe, 2015.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Best  show                                                  Bursting  into Flames  
                                                                      Inescapable
                                                                      The Elephant Girls
                                                                      Three Men in a Boat
                                                                     Weird: Witches of Macbeth

Best performers in  Fringe                     Martin Dockery (Inescapable/Bursting into  Flames                                
                                                                John D. Huston  (Screwtape)
                                                              Margo Macdonald  (The Elephant Girls)
                                                             Daniel Tobias (The Orchid and the Crow)
                                                           Gemma Wilcox (Magical Mystery Detour)

 

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Celebrity Exception

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

A Black Sheep Theatre Production, written by Katherine Glover who won the critic’s award for her monologue Dead Wrong in 2012. It is directed by Dave Dawson whose work in Community theatre in Ottawa has also been recognized.

The story unfolds quickly as a  young couple, the  fellow’s sister and  a movie star  launch the  dynamic of the “celebrity exception. Everyone has the right to a single exception in their lives where they can transgress the pact made with the partner and try some exciting new adventure. Mark is horrified by the idea but  Kayley is excited and confesses she dreams of spending the night with a famous actor known for his vampire and cheap movie hero roles. There is a twist of fate, the actor mysteriously appears and things work out in a most unexpected way and the actors pull it off most convincingly.

The story is a bit silly, it smacks of childish games, although the young people do seem to be comfortable in these roles, and the audience follows it all along. At one point  near the end, the movie star is on the phone but  we are not sure to whom he is talking, that is a hole that needs some clarification. . Nevetheless, this nonsense  allowed the  young performers to get on stage but  the play was not nearly the level of writing that Glover gave us with her monologue Dead Wrong, in 2012,   which was a  winner from the very first moment. Lets hope she goes back to that kind of writing which was  exceptional. At least the names of the actors were mentioned which is a good thing since they do deserve recognition:  Mike Kosowan, Robin Hodge, Jonah Lerner and Alexis Scott.

Celebrity Exception em> in the Court room of Arts Court.

The Elephant Girls.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

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Maggie Hale, alone on stage, drinking beer and smoking, stares us straight in the eye(s) and tells us,  her invisible interlocutor, about her involvement with that gang of 40 women, who terrorized London in the early 2 0th century. Lead by the magnificently powerful  Diamond Annie, they pulled off the most daring robberies of the biggest department stores in the city, selling their goods, acquiring lots of cash and forming a little community of highly successful women who rose above all the stereotypes of their kind at that period. (Continue reading » )

Debris.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Debris: Daniel Wishes & Seri Yanai / Wishes Mystical Puppet Company

A show that blends shadow-puppetry, object puppetry and classic storytelling, Debris by Wishes Mystical Puppet Company imagines a story wherein the 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan begins a ripple reaches across the sea to touch Canadian soil. Three objects surfaced on three Canadian shores years after the tsunami: A fish in a boat, a basketball, and a motorbike. Daniel Wishes and Seri Yanai’s play takes that as a point of departure, and ruminates on potential meanings behind this debris that washed up on shore. Are they simply three pieces of garbage, or is this the work of an intelligent universe trying to convey a message?

The fish, basketball and motorcycle are given stories that are told from a first-person perspective, and the audience is pulled into the fictional legacy that may precede their arrival to Canada. The show is presented primarily through shadow projections of cut-out drawings which are manipulated to add a visual component to Wishes’ storytelling. Though the mechanics of the puppetry are relatively smooth, the slow pace and lack-lustre stories imagined for these objects come across as innocuous and mundane.

While the performance successfully lures the audience with a quiet beauty, the script needs an edit to avoid storylines that draw the audience away from the core meaning of the play. Certain scenes seem to fit badly into the overall narrative, and leave us grasping for the meaning behind Debris.