Thursday, November 24, 2011

Review: (Montreal) ANA

Six Annas in search of their mother
By Byron Toben

After the world premiere opening of the wonderful, thought-provoking play ANA at Espace Go, I wisecracked that it should be subtitled Six Annas in Search of their Mother.

Later, reading director Serge Denoncourt's program notes, I was gratified to see that he also paraphrased Pirandello to describe the show. The co-authors, Clare Duffy of Scotland and Pierre Yves Lemieux of Montreal spent three years working up a script based on a concept by Clare Schapiro of Montreal
and Muriel Romanes of Scotland. predates the first written story in history, that of Gilgamesh around 2400 B.C.E.

This concept involves, as Mr Denoncourt explains, magic: possible and impossible, surreal and disturbing….a child without a mother and mothers without children.

It all goes back to the ancient myth of Innana, a Sumerian goddess around 3500 B.C.E. Thus it predates the first written story in history, that of Gilgamesh around 2400 B.C.E.

But Innana is not your basic nurturing Earth Goddess, She also embodies love, lust, prostitution. infanticide.

l-r Romanes, Denoncourt, Schapiro
In this production, the original infant Ana is abandoned on a rock on the Isle of Skye. Then we follow various incarnations through the centuries as Ana Splits… apparently  a cross between reincarnation  and cell division...into varied manifestations as superbly performed by six ladies, three from Montreal and three visiting from Scotland. 

The whole show is presented as a sort of circus by a vaudevillian m.c. enacted by our own Alain Goulem. This one male actor also has to quick change costumes to play cameos as Darwin, Freud, a Viking invader and others .

The women portrayed or alluded to include Pope Joan, Joan of Arc, Marianne (symbol of French revolution), Anna (Freud's daughter).

Alas the program does not include bios of these versatile ladies who are locals Catherine Begin, Dominique Leduc and Magalie Lepine-Blondeau and visitors Selina Boyack, Lisa Gardner and Frances Thorburn. Ms Gardner managed a  convincing Noo Yawk accent in one scene in this bilingual English-French play.

The  bilingualism, going beyond the Centaur's ground-breaking Balconville some years ago, makes sense in our fair city. But wonder of wonders, the whole production is shifting to Scotland in March…same cast, sets, the works.

And it probably will work with these two co-producers. Ms. Romanes's group, Stellar Quines, was the first to introduce  Michel Trembley's iconic Les Belles Soeurs to Scotland. Ms. Schapiro's Imago Theatre is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Both are indie groups with the usual litany, long on talent, short of money. Both have featured plays involving women's concerns (which are, or should be, men's concerns as well).

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