Thursday, February 7, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) Ladies of the Lake (undercurrents)

Too Many Concepts, Too Little Time
Ladies of the Lake drowns under its own weight
Valerie Cardinal
Ladies of the Lake is a re-imagining of an Arthurian legend, developed by Skeleton Key Theatre during their time as GCTC’s company-in-residence from 2011 to 2012. Vivienne, a girl lost in her nightmares, inexplicably finds herself on the edge of a lake, between the odd man who saves her from drowning and the woman trapped on the bottom of the lake. 
I’m usually a sucker for adaptations of legends and fairytales, but in this case, I liked the idea more than the execution. Most of this comes down to the incorporation of movement. Between short bouts of dialogue, the actors perform modern dance-style interludes that weren’t really my cup of tea. Although the concept was interesting, I found that these were the points where the energy seemed to drop and the momentum of the story was interrupted. 

The addition of original music was more successful, hitting the right notes of creepy and atmospheric. However, it was a little too loud and buried some of the dialogue, especially when the quiet John Doucet was speaking. Dilys Ayafor has some great moments of power in her performance as Nimue, the Lady of the Lake herself. Kate Smith was very committed in her performance as Vivienne.
This is a good-looking production; the costumes are gorgeous and Guillaume Houët’s lighting design is fantastic. The minimalistic set also makes good use of the small performance space.
With movement, dialogue and music, Skeleton Key Theatre tries to pack a lot into just 45 minutes. Therefore, the story feels rushed and the characters underdeveloped. The more I think about it, the more questions I have about the script. I would have enjoyed more focus on the lighter, dialogue-driven bits, which would have cleared up some of the plot. As it is, the final battle plays out a little like a custody battle in a bad divorce; I hate to admit it, but I giggled a bit. 
Ladies of the Lake had some good moments, but lacked a clear message and the power and intensity it needed to be truly effective. 

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