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

More dragons, please! La Machine in Ottawa

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Guest reviewer Laurie Fyffe

Photo: Laurie Fyffe.

La Machine with its dueling dragon and gigantic spider has come and gone, leaving in its wake a flurry of excitement over what one can do with public space. Ottawa audiences came out in droves to witness two fantastical creates enact their fictional quest on Ottawa streets before discovering each other in a grand finale on Lebreton Flats. Given extraordinary license to tie up traffic, two mechanical beings transformed this city’s boulevards and multilane, downtown thoroughfares into scenic displays of awe and wonder. Kids were hoisted aloft to gaze at monsters that roared, spewed smoke and arrived in an array of wondrous musical accompaniment.

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Grensgeval (Borderline) A theatrical exploration of the refugee crisis.

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage   , ,

GRENSGEVAL – 71e FESTIVAL D’AVIGNON –
Texte : Elfriede JELINEK –
Traduction Tom KLEIJN –
Mise en scène : Guy CASSIERS –
Chorégraphie : Maud LE PLADEC –
Scénographie, costumes : Tim VAN STEENBERGEN –
Lumière : Fabiana PICCIOLI –
Vidéo : Frederik JASSOGNE –
Son : Diederik DE COCK –
Dans le cadre du 71e Festival d’Avignon –
Lieu : Parc des Expositions –
Ville : Avignon –
Photo : Christophe RAYNAUD DE LAGE –

Grensgeval   (Borderline).Based on Les Suppliants by Elfriede Jelinek.
Directed by Guy Cassiers, choreography by Maud Le Pladec, A Toneelhuis, Antwerp production.

Migration, refugee crisis and crossing borders are among the most pressing political, social and economic issues of today’s Europe. The situation is alarming and confusing both on the level of everyday life and politically, with many people in power trying to manipulate public opinion against refugees. Politically aware artists are actively engaged in searching to contribute to their audiences’ better understanding of the new world. They seek appropriate artistic language to discuss atrocities that refugees experience and to speak to their spectators’ compassion.
Guy Cassiers is one of these engaged artists. An artistic director of the Toneelhuis in Antwerp, Cassiers has been looking into the issues of migration for the past several seasons. He not only focusses his programing on this topic but also creates events aimed at educating the subscribers to his theatre about the new European conditions,  seeking to engage refugees to be more actively involved in the cultural life of Antwerp.
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Batsheva Dance Company’s “Last Work”: Ohad Naharin researches the performing body.

Reviewed by on    Dance   ,

bat89C_0727 Batsheva photographer Gadi Dagon

Photo: Gadi  Dagon

At first, we are intrigued by the evolution of these young bodies in space:  disarticulated, disjointed, straining muscles in unusual directions, in opposition to what happens to bodies executing existing dance steps. Dance has repossessed the human body in a way that makes  unhuman demands on the living human creature and opens a new world.

Choreographed at first as  individuals, each dancer  crawls, lopes, twists, leaps, floats in from the wings,  opposing  the  rhythms and movements of the preceding dancer, just to give us the feeling of the enormous possibilities of the human body in this investigation of what can take place in a performance space.  Then groups form and reform,  as all around them the fluttering and twisting of slim, elongated and  finely muscular creatures jerking in and out, up and down, below and above,  create a parallel dialogue with the  electronic sound effects and highly dramatic music.   There is so much excitement, so much activity that  our gaze  keeps  shifting around the stage, picking up individual movements, noticing  other bodies  regrouping, almost as though we were  watching the trembling of some  nervous cellular activity under an intense microscope.

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Boom provides comfort for those afflicted with Attention Deficit Disorder

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

 booms_logo 
Photo: Richard Leclerc.

Is Boom more flash than substance? It may seem churlish to ask that question, given the undeniable
vitality and creativity that have gone into Rick Miller’s panoramic look at the Boomer generation over a quarter century of change.
Indeed, in his capacity as writer, director and performer, Miller does secure his credentials as a mercurial and engaging presence as he whips us through the decades. So Boom is an achievement of sorts — and definitely a collective one.
That often translucent pillar dominating the stage of the NAC Theatre is essential to the multi-media impact of a carefully planned entertainment in which state-of-the art projections and a seductive soundscape integrate with Miller’s own endlessly shifting persona to evoke the shapes and textures of another era.

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TACTICS 2015: Highs and lows abound in interdisciplinary productions from emerging performers

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region.   ,

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TACTICS is an independent, collective series that features work by emerging and professional performers. The plays occur in short runs ––no more than a week in length—and so audiences will have to rush to the theatre if they hope to catch the performances before the next shows take the stage. It goes without saying that original performances and emerging artistry are vital parts of a theatre community. With that mandate comes the potential for some really great or really bad theatre, and the first weekend of this TACTICS series exemplifies this divide.

The first show of the evening, (off) Balance, is the brain-child of Naomi Tessler who both wrote the piece, and acts in the production. The stage is fairly bare and a large, red cloth circle outlines the playing space. This one-woman, autobiographical piece employs monologue, dance, and a live music; the musician sits outside the red circle, and plays African drum and chimes alongside the performance. But even with the intervention of Bronwyn Steinberg’s direction and dramaturgy, the production is underwhelming.

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Post Eden:

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

jordantannahill1 Photo: Walter Watier.  Jordan Tannahill.

In this postmodern time of fluctuating categories and unstable definitions, it becomes exceedingly difficult to pass judgement on recent works of art because there are few  fixed categories that allow us to define anything. Everything is defined by its own logic and this is what happens when one is faced with Post Eden by Jordan Tannahill who rejects theatre practice that  has preceded his own research.  The only way to react to this piece is to let ones emotions flow and say “that made me feel good”, it was “fun” , it was “entertaining” or else that was irritating I didn’t like it, even though I can’t really say why. Those kinds of remarks are  self-indulgent and not useful if one is trying to understand what Tannahill is doing.

We might begin with an interview published by Patrick Langston in the Ottawa Citizen (April 14). The journalist quotes Tannahill who speaks about “taking risks” because when something is projected into a performance space that has not been  carefully subjected to some form of theatrical mediation,  the risk of mistakes, or confusion, or sloppiness even failure is clearly there. But all that contributes to Tannahill’s sense of theatrical “liveness” which he pushes to the ultimate degree. . Theatre is anything that  happens with real people in front of an audience and by heavily mediating the actors, the production (through a specific script, direction, blocking, lighting, costumes, multi media elements,  time and spatial limits, all those conventions of the stage ), theatre is no longer a situation of  pure “liveness”, it becomes a construction, an entity that is false, artificial, not a place of risk-taking and Tannahill wants to take real risks.`

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The Door of No Return: Performing Colonial Memory.

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage   , , ,

TheDoorOfNoReturn

Reviewed by Kat Fournier

Photo: THE DOOR OF NO-RETURN, Democratic Republic of Congo. © Philippe Ducros, 2010

La porte du non-retour (The Door of no return) refers to monuments on the west coast of Africa erected in memory of the millions of slaves deported from Africa to America. Once they passed through the door, they knew that they would never come back. Director and photographer Philippe Ducros presents his  life-changing trip to the Congo in the form of a  multi-media photo-exhibition that  converges with  history, storytelling and landscape  to become a haunting narrative related to the slave trade.

The event  presents the story of a Canadian man who  visits  the Congo to witness the shattered world left in the wake of its  colonial history. Two voices guide the tour: the male voice represents Philippe Ducros, the female voice  represents his girlfriend who corresponds with him from Canada.  In the scope of this piece, she represents the safety and comfort of home, and ultimately the naivety of the distant observer. While she stays home, reaching out to him through letters or phone calls, he is drawn further into a nightmare from which he cannot wake.

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You Should Have Stayed Home : political theatre that tells a good story.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

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Praxis Theatre, Toronto. Photo of Tommy Taylor. Photograpyher unknown. Found in the Charlebois Post.

 

The 2010 G20 Summit in Toronto resulted in everything from a number of international financial agreements (will they actually be realized?) to astronomical costs for Canadian taxpayers (remember the much-pilloried artificial lake?). It also produced riots and, in the case of Tommy Taylor and many others, a mass arrest and detainment for having done nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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The Understudy , Boston premiere of the play by Theresa Rebeck.

Reviewed by on    All the world's a stage   ,

The New Year ushered in the Boston premiere of Theresa Rebeck’s The Understudy at the Lyric Stage. A presence in the city for more than thirty years, the Lyric Stage has been under the leadership of artistic director Spiro Veloudos since 1997.  A 240 seat space with a thrust stage, the Lyric is located on the second floor of a YMCA in Boston’s Back Bay

The Lyric makes it a point to cast local professional actors, keep ticket prices moderate (which can mean low production values), and draw its repertory mainly from contemporary American drama and musicals, with the occasional bow to British works such as its memorable production of Caryl Churchill’s A Number.

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