The Public Servant and Skin: two comments on the Undercurrents Festival

Reviewed by Laurie Fyffe

Categories: Professional Theatre

The Public Servant

GCTC’s Undercurrents festival of new works kicked off Tuesday night with a glimpse into what’s simmering under the surface in Ottawa’s theatre community. The news is good. First, every laterally re-situated, hastily bought out, or abruptly terminated servant of the public take note – Ottawa’s recent and ongoing gutting of those who toil in service of the passive Canadian public is now a very personal and highly political play, The Public Servant. Theatre is a subversive art form. No where more so, than when a group of smart, talented and extremely forthright women venture into the fray of tattered emotions and downgraded expectations of policy gone wrong – and make the audience laugh, while leaving the theatre fully cognizant of the joke.

Haley McGee’s wide eyed public servant runs head on into the multi-cubicle world of Amy Rutherford’s and Sarah McVie’s over documented hell only to find her dreams shredded as she is, after eight years, forced to compete for her own job. This delightful confection of wit and insight was created by the ensemble of Jennifer Brewin, who also directs, and McVie, McGee and Rutherford who all perform with hilarious precision. Amy Rutherford deserves particular notice for her extraordinary ability to inhabit a broad range of characters in quick succession, and who delivers a knock out punch of a ‘throne speech’ at the play’s climax. You don’t have to name names, and no one does, to question the current reign of ineptitude that is razing Canada’s research and policy establishment. The Public Servant, produced by Theatre Columbus, is theatre to gladden the heart, because that’s where it strikes.

The Public Servant: a Theatre Columbus (Toronto) production

Created by: Jennifer Brewin, Haley McGee, Sarah McVie & Amy Rutherford

Directed by: Jennifer Brewin

Performed by: Haley McGee, Sarah McVie, Amy Rutherford

Stage Management: Laura Baxter

Lighting Design: Martin Conboy

Designer: Anna Treusch

Skin

On the more sultry side, Ottawa’s Deluxe Hot Sauce brings us Skin, a siren song of a slippery dip into the world of seals who become women and women who dream of seals. The narrative is a bit hard to hold from time to time, but this hauntingly underscored journey into mythical obsession is beautify presented by twists and turns that amuse and engage as a cast of shape shifting performers explore the tale of a woman drawn from the sea into the arms of a human lover, only to escape him and return to her water world seven years later. Myth meets modernity, as the cast of Katie Bunting, Nick Carpenter, Sarah Finn, Annie Lefebvre, Kelly Rigole, Doreen Taylor-Claxton and Beverley Wolfe explore the realm of female lust, love and longing. Martha Ross directs, infusing this ancient tale with a dose of purpose, plus imaginative staging. What it occasionally lacks in resolution, Skin makes up for in entertaining and poignant moments of theatrical pleasure. Carpenter and Taylor-Claxton provide the musical currents – some flat out gorgeous singing by Taylor-Claxton is particularly enjoyable – evoking a timeless place, invaded by the siren call of the female deep. A play for lovers.

Skin produced by Deluxe Hot Sauce (Ottawa)

Written & Created by: Katie Bunting, Nick Carpenter, Sarah Finn, Chantal Hayman, Anne Janelle, Annie Lefebvre, Kelly Rigole, Martha Ross, Alix Sideris, Doreen Taylor-Claxton, Kristina Watt, Beverley Wolfe

Directed by: Martha Ross

Featuring: Katie Bunting, Nick Carpenter, Sarah Finn, Annie Lefebvre, Kelly Rigole, Doreen Taylor-Claxton, Beverley Wolfe

Original Music by: Nick Carpenter

Stage Management: Chantal Hayman

Lighting Design: Arras Hopkins

Set/Costume/Prop Design: Jess Preece

Both The Public Servant and Skin are a part of GCTC’s Undercurrents now playing at the Irving Greenberg Theatre, corner of Holland and Wellington, until Sunday, February 17th. For information on specific show times visit the GCTC Undercurrents website www.gctc.ca/whats/undercurrents or call the GCTC Box Office at 613-236-5196.

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