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

Ottawa Fringe 2016: Best Picture, Grade 8 , A Tension de Detail- There is a winner here!!

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Best Picture
RibbitRePublic (Jersey City, N.J.), Studio Léonard-Beaulne
It’s a near-breathless sprint, but they get it done: Jon Paterson, Kurt Fitzpatrick and Rachel Kent lampoon every Best Picture Oscar winner ever (80, if you’re counting) by enacting a mashed up excerpt or at least injecting a title into the show’s brisk dialogue. Part of the fun is guessing the name of the movie, say, How Green Was My Valley (1941) or Ordinary People (1980), before it’s spoken. Equally entertaining is how the trio segues from one film to the next or chucks a couple of movies into the verbal Mixmaster so that The Hunchback of Notre Dame suddenly appears aboard the 1935 version of Mutiny on the Bounty (you do know the connection between the two films, don’t you?). The show sometimes bogs down under its own cleverness, but it still manages to emerge as the kind of bright-eyed performance with zero social value that you’d find only at a fringe festival.

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Ottawa Fringe 2016: Raw Footage – mission accomplished as three artists create trustworthiness, honesty and beauty.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Raw footage is comprised of three dance pieces performed by Cathy Kyle-Fenton, Mary Catherine Jack and Nicola Henry. It is a real treat for dance lovers who like to immerse themselves in a beauty of dance moves and to be carried away by the imaginative narrative. Artists dance beautifully, showcasing their talent, strength and creativity while portraying women who struggle with their personal perception of loss, beauty and life defining light.

Cathy Kyle-Fenton is dancing partly to the faint sound of guitar and partly to the complete silence – at the beginning the only sound heard is tapping of her own feet accompanied by the rhythmic sound of her breathing. Silence adds to the drama of the story about woman who recently suffered a loss of someone close and beloved. Pain is clearly written on her face. Every move tells about battle to accept the reality in hope that they will meet again.

Mary Catherine Jack is a true comedian in a role of a woman who is not a youngster any more, and has hard time to accept the plain facts: sagging skin, wrinkled face and not so firm body. She portrays the wont-to-be sexy seductress in a naturally humorous way while preserving control and gracefulness of dance.

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Ottawa Fringe 2016: Best Picture is a Treat for Oscar Buffs

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

Best Picture is a cheeky romp through more than 80 years of Academy
Award winners. The script emanates from the nimble brain of Kurt
Patrick who also shares the stage with the versatile Rachel Kent and
the hilarious Jon Paterson in zipping entertainingly through decades
of Oscar history in only 60 minutes.
A warning, however: this show will work best for film buffs, Without
some knowledge of the movies themselves, you'll miss a lot of the
witty allusions. But this show from Vancouver's RibbitRePublic is
smartly conceived: it knows that even the most savvy filmgoer is
likely to know nothing about such forgotten winners as Wings or
Cavalcade, yet it's still creative enough to find ways to get them
into the mix.
With Jeff Culbert directing, the tone is one of witty irreverence —
but these people do have the good sense to show respect for
Schindler's List and they also tip-toe cautiously when it comes to
Gentlemen's Agreement. Some of the spoofing does fizzle, but in a show
like this there's always the promise of redemption seconds later —
that's how quickly it moves. So its pleasures are substantial, and
include hilarious send-ups of The Silence Of The Lambs and The King's
Speech, a mischievous pairing of the Oscar-winning Going My Way with
the horrors of The Exorcist, and a caustically funny reminder that
Marlon Brando was frequently incomprehensible in his Oscar-winning
performance The Godfather.

(Best Picture: Studio Leonard-Beaulne to June 25)

    Miss Bruce’s War is One of a Kind.

    Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

     Miss Bruce's War is not your normal Fringe entertainment. It's a new
    piece by 93-year-old Jean Duce Palmer and based on her own experience
    of teaching in a one-room school in Alberta's Cypress Hills region
    during the Second World War. It's also a student production that comes
    to the Fringe from Ottawa's Elmwood School.
    This is a memory play rather than a traditionally constructed drama.
    It's only real conflict rests in what happens when a young and
    inexperienced teacher is thrust into an alien culture and faces the
    classroom challenge of dealing with German-Canadian youngsters in a
    time of war. Yet it remains an affecting piece of theatre because of
    the quiet integrity of the script, and the evocative power of the
    playwright's memories, coupled with the responsive work of a group of
    talented youngsters under the direction of Angela Boychuk.

    (Continue reading » )

    Ottawa Fringe 2016 : Fugee Is A Show That Deserves Attention

    Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

    British playwright Abi Morgan has always sought to strike a connection between the political and the personal — and her influences come from the left. She reveres the thorny lack of compromise shown over the years by a radical filmmaker like Ken Loach, and she makes no apologies about injecting unabashed polemic into her own work. But she is also so good at her craft that producers were ready to entrust her with the screenplay for The Iron Lady, a portrait of a major political figure, Margaret Thatcher, that she and her family hated.

    Morgan is, in brief, a writer worthy of attention, and Ottawa’s Third Wall Academy deserves our warmest thanks for introducing Fringe audiences to Fugee, a lacerating account of how the system is failing refugee children. In her 2008 script, Morgan was zeroing in on the British situation, but with its sense of emotional horror and hopelessness, the play’s implications occupy a wider canvas.

    The central character, Kojo, is a child from the Ivory Coast, an innocent whose once idyllic existence was brutally changed forever on his 11th birthday. When he first meet him, he has seemingly made it to safety and a new life. But he has no English and no passport, and his age is in question. Even within the security of a children’s refugee centre, the system is about to start tearing him apart — be it through latent prejudice, outright hostility, or bureaucratic indifference. And we keep being pulled back to the play’s first horrific image — of Kojo fatally knifing another youth on the street. And we keep asking why that tragedy happened.

    (Continue reading » )

    Ottawa Fringe 2016: Patrick Langston has seen – Lovely Lady Lump, 2 for Tea and V.R.Dunne.

    Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

    Lovely Lady Lump,
    Lana Schwarcz (Melbourne, Australia)
    Arts Court Theatre
    Lana Schwarcz is a stand-up comic, so it’s not surprising that her solo, autobiographical show about breast cancer is a comedy. She tells jokes to an unseen radiation technologist during treatments. A flakey art therapist for cancer patients gets spoofed. Cancer itself is pilloried when Schwarcz, reversing roles by embodying the disease, depicts it as a second-rate performer in a comedy club who tells jokes like, “When I was a kid, I was really good at hide-and-seek. Sometimes people didn’t find me for years.” Schwacrz is open about herself, revisiting the terrible moment when she got her diagnosis, exploring how disease can threaten your self-identity by turning you into a body part, and then putting that part in the context of a whole person by baring her breasts on stage as she re-enacts the endless radiation sessions. Many have found the show at once hilarious and tear-provoking. Finding it neither, your reviewer mostly hoped it would end soon. You decide for yourself.

    (Continue reading » )

    Miss Bruce’s War, Fugee and Best Picture!

    Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,


    Before issuing media passes this year, the Fringe organization required the media to sign a document that was unacceptable to me and many of my colleagues. As I could not sign, my reviews are limited to companies that invited me to attend and write about their shows. Iris Winston

    Miss Bruce’s War

    By Jean Duce Palmer

    Elmwood School

    Director: Angela Boychuk

    A fictionalized account about playwright Jean Duce Palmer’s experiences as a young teacher in a one-room school in rural Alberta during the Second World War, Miss Bruce’s War brings moments in history to life with a fine cast of students headed by Sophia Swettenham in the title role.

    As well as having an excellent singing voice, Swettenham brings warmth to a demanding part as she delivers patriotic British songs to a community that was first settled by German speakers. She is well supported by the rest of the 12-member cast, particularly Madighan Ryan as Irene, the youngster in whose home Miss Bruce boards and whose bedroom she occupies.

    There is also excellent cooperation among the ensemble in arranging and re-arranging the simple and well-conceived set pieces.

    A first-class high school production, Miss Bruce’s War is an unusual but very worthwhile presentation for fringe theatre.

    Next performance: June 25, 12 noon, Academic Hall

    (Continue reading » )

    Ottawa Fringe Festival 2016: Small Creatures Such as We a pleasant hour of theatre

    Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

    Small Creatures Such as We
    Created by Meagan McDonald & Vishesh Abeyratne
    Produced by Angel in the Rafters Theatre

    Joanna and Kit meet in their teens. He is a tough boy and she is a modest, religious girl. As opposites attract, Joanna and Kit fall in love.  It is an unsteady, adolescent relationship, but it is exciting and pure. The Romance finishes with an unexpected pregnancy and stillborn child. They part, each going a different direction. Still, they often think of each other, and finally meet again after 10 years. Now as adults, they talk about how their lives have been changed as a result of their past. By revealing sequences of their youth, they face their inner demons and expose their tortured minds.

    Small Creatures Such as We is a well-written story in which Meagan McDonald and Vishesh Abeyratne explore the dark side of growing up. They probe such issues as violence among teenagers, fear of and confusion with circumstances they find themselves in, as well as unprotected sexual relationships and its consequences. Although the general tone of the play is tragic, the creators leave hope for the future. Does love conquer it all? The end seems to be rushed, and therefore lacks the conviction of the rest of the narrative. (Continue reading » )

    Ottawa Fringe Festival 2016: Miss Bruce’s War brings 1940s Alberta to our doorstep

    Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

    Miss Bruce’s War
    Created by Jean Duce Palmer
    Produced by Elmwood School_Elmwood Theatre

    Playwright Jean Duce Palmer wrote Miss Bruce’s War based on her own experience as a young schoolteacher in ruralAlberta during World War II. This semi-biographical work brings back a different era – a time where people sang patriotic song and helped the war effort any way they could.

    Miss Bruce gets a three month job teaching a small group of children who happen to be of a German origin. Her assignment starts in January – the worst and the coldest part of year. The journey is long and tiring, she is cold and hungry, and her only wish is to reach her destination as soon as possible and get a chance to rest. As the story unfolds, Miss Bruce undergoes changes. She matures a little after every single event during her short stay in the area. Prejudice and insensitivity towards her neighbours disappear and she learns a lot about love and friendship. (Continue reading » )

    Ottawa Fringe Festival 2016: Fugee well directed, acted, and well worth your time

    Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region  

    Production: Third Wall Academy
    Created by Abi Morgan
    Directed by James Richardson

    Kojo is a refugee fron Ivory Cost. He is only 14, but has already lived a very adult life. When he was only 11, soldiers kidnapped him, took to a training camp and made a solder out of him. He watched soldiers kill his parents and younger brother, suffered unkindness of all kinds and was made to kill. Finely, he escaped, and with a fake visa, came to England, where he was put in a safe place for unaccompanied minors. There he lives with other children, none of whom speaks English. The only thing common to all is the horror they once lived through and managed to escape.

    Kojo’s styory is not told  in chronological order. On the contrary, Fugee starts with the last scene of the story – the moment when Kojo kills a young man on the street. From that first scene untill the last one, the play is constructed through a numbe of snapshots: children bonding, falling in love, telling their war experience, Kojo remembering his parents, and finally, the moment when, due to miscommunication, the system in England accuses him of a false identity and kicks him out of the safe place. Scene by scene, Kojo’s story unfolds, and by the end, all snapshots fall in place and make a perfect unity. (Continue reading » )

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