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

A Christmas Carol at the Gladstone: Mr. Charles Dickens pays his respects and performs his story! A real treat for the audience

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Dickens14724594_1685276825120678_6821339433919411578_nPhoto: courtesy of the Acting Company.

John D. Huston, an actor we have seen many times before in Ottawa and who is in the habit of performing solo, is back in the city with a most beautiful evening of theatre within theatre.  He literally  becomes Charles Dickens, whisks us back to the 19th Century and plays Dickens the actor as he would have performed his own novella. It is a great pleasure to behold this writer who transforms himself into the various voices from his  text. because who more than he, would be so acquainted with these characters?  He  not only imitates them,  he transforms his face and body into those who are talking, he even creates a vocal sound scape: the ringing of the bells, the rattling of Marley’s chains, the howling of the wind, the noises that set the stage for the arrival of those ghostly creatures who scare poor Scrooge to death.

As a fellow who is trained in the melodramatic acting techniques of his day, Dickens makes everything seem larger than life, more intense than realistic thus emphasizing the  underlying gothic horror of the text, even bringing us closer to something that Edgar Allan Poe might have written since they were contemporaries.

This text represents the version that was cut down from the original three hour performance text, but augmented from the hour version we saw several years ago at the Manotick Fringe festival.

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Jacqui Du Toit sets fire to the Gladstone stage recreating her personal tribute to Sarah Baartman.

Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

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Photo:      Jacqui Du Toit as narrator in The Hottentot Venus Untold.

No actor would dare become Sarah Baartman, the young South African woman who was abducted from her native Cape Town in 1810 and whisked off to London and the continent where she was paraded around public fairs and popular entertainment spots, exhibited as a freak and a strange savage. Her anatomy titillated British audiences, excited French audiences and inspired French scientists to conduct positivist inspired experiments on her body just to determine whether she was a human being or a beast, shoving her inner parts into bottles of formaldehyde which ended up in the Musée de l’homme in Paris. Mme Du Toit who in no way resembles the “Hottentot Venus” clearly realized that the only way to establish a portrait of this tortured victim of racism and colonial cruelty, was to produce various testimonies of her life given by imaginary characters whose stories were based on historical fact. Given current advances in historiography, testimonials, like all forms of memory, are considered material which contributes to the construction of history. Such is the case of Latin American victims of torture or survivors of the Shoah , events where documentation is not always available and where official historians were not present. Yet those who suffered, or who observed the suffering, always remember what happened and that is what is highlighted in this show.

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