Saturday, December 1, 2012

Review: (Ottawa) The Number 14

Sarah Rodgers, Scott Walters (Photo Credit: David Cooper)

The Wheels on The Bus
by Jim Murchison 

There is a vintage 1959 bus sitting outside the GCTC. The lobby is filled with memorabilia. Video and artwork of Chris Brown and Stuart Kinmond represents the history of city bus travel in the Fritzi gallery. That is the big hint that The Number 14 is about a bus. It is one weird, wacked out bus.

If you can remember the craziest bus ride you ever took and then magnify it and multiply it by a thousand, then you kind of have an idea of what The Number 14 is all about. It is Cirque du Soleil on acid on a bus. It is not a play as much as an experience. It has been going on for 20 years since it was first developed by Vancouver’s Axis Theatre. Director Wayne Specht was part of the original company that developed the show and he directs it with precision. It is essential when you have six actors that have to create the illusion of braking and accelerating on a completely stationary stage.

I’ll keep it simple and say everything is an influence.

Chris Adams, Morgan Brayton, Stefano Giulianetti, Neil Minor, Tracey Power and Scott Walters are the performers. I mention them as a group because they are so chameleonic and the pace can be so frantic that it is very difficult to keep track of who is playing who. 

Also a lot of the work is inspired by commedia dell’arte, so frequently the actors are disguised behind Melody Anderson’s wonderful mask designs. Nancy Bryant’s costumes instantly define the person we are seeing, but have to be very functional; meaning if you can’t get in and out of them quickly, then forget about it. Gerald King's lighting creates transformative moods very quickly and sometimes spots are deliberately wrong, to afford duelling thespians the opportunity to fight for their light. Pam Johnson’s set is a bus that has every square inch and every level explored. 

I don’t usually talk about influences in a production a great deal in my reviews so I’ll keep it simple and say everything is an influence. To mention them all would be like the Tasmanian devil listing what he likes to eat. 

I am going to challenge myself and list one memorable character that each of the actors play and wait to see if I get any wrong. Stefano Giulianetti plays an irritating, trivia obsessed, and loquacious repairman.  Chris Adams is a loud, bratty boy that can’t keep his food in his mouth. Morgan Brayton plays a Chinese woman and the rest of her family all at once. Neil Minor is an old lady struggling with her equilibrium on a wildly lurching bus. Tracey power is an abandoned five year old trying oh-so-hard to be brave. Scott Walters is a medieval madman admonishing the audience for being stupid enough to be here and gets applauded for it.

Are you confused? Well then my work is done. If you want to be more dazed and confused go see The Number 14. If you want to understand and remember every detail, you’ll probably have to see it more than once, but remember there are less than 24 shopping days until Christmas.

The Number 14 runs to December 16

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. Please read our guidelines for posting comments.