Friday, May 31, 2013

Review: (Stratford) Mary Stuart

Lucy Peacock (l), Seanna McKenna and company (photo: David Hou)

A Tale of Two Queens
Stratford royalty reign over this astounding new production
by Stuart Munro

It’s not very often you get the chance to see two legendary actors in their prime portray characters that seem to have been crafted for them and them alone, but this is exactly what we are given in Stratford’s new production of Mary Stuart by Friedrich Schiller (in a new version by Peter Oswald). Directed by festival artistic director, Antoni Cimolino, this Mary Stuart is a powerhouse of a production filled with dynamic direction and stellar performances.

Set in the days before the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1587, Mary Stuart is a religio-political drama that centres around a fictional meeting between Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth I of England. The success of the play hangs on that scene, and the tension that precedes and follows it. And while every moment has been beautifully crafted by Cimolino, the ultimate success of that crucial meeting is thanks to the extraordinary talents of Lucy Peacock as Mary and Seana McKenna as Elizabeth. As Mary, Ms. Peacock is strong-willed, but never arrogant; convinced of her rightful claim to the throne, but also fully accepting of why she has ended up in prison. The serene calm during her final scene, moments before her execution, was sublime and heartbreaking – may we all be so untroubled as we meet death. Likewise, McKenna’s Elizabeth is the perfect portrait of a woman who, while in power, believes she has none, yet is surrounded by those who obey her every word – she makes such a paradox comprehensible. Her severe shock in the play’s final scene sent chills down my spine, and I expect through the hearts of everyone in the audience. These two women meet for only a few brief moments at the top of the play’s second half, but those brief moments alone are worth the price of admission – the power of that meeting resonates throughout the remainder of the play right until the lights come down for the final time. Indeed, my only complaint is that this scene is too short! I’d’ve been only too glad to watch these two women interact all evening.

Review: (Montreal) Ganesh Versus The Third Reich (FTA)

(photo credit: Jeff Busby)
Taking the Risk to be Loved (and Hated)
by Chad Dembski
I need to confess that I do not know what to say about “Ganesh versus the Third Reich”, that opened last night at Usine C as part of the Festival TransAmériques.  Since the show ended at 9:40 p.m. I have been confused, inspired, frustrated, lost and upset about the piece which is challenging, unsettling but ultimately extremely rewarding as well.  Back to Back theatre is an Australian  company which  employs full time creators who are mentally disabled to create and perform their work.  
There are two worlds in “Ganesh…”, one with the actors, the writer and the director speaking directly about the piece to each other, figuring out the script, having conflicts about whether the show is right to perform, and if they have the right to play Jews and Indian Gods. The other is a story of Ganesh going to Nazi Germany in 1943 to claim back the swastika from the Nazis.  These two worlds contrast by their aesthetic; the world of 1943 is full of spectacular curtains, video, animation, and costumes and the other is an extremely bright empty room (after all the artifice has been stripped away).  

Review: (Ottawa) Steel Magnolias

(via company website)
Delicate and Strong
by Jim Murchison 

Robert Harling’s play is a well written if at times predictable story set entirely in Truvy’s hair salon in the fictional Louisiana town of Chinquapin in the 1980’s. The play had a long run Off Broadway and of course was a very popular star-studded film. 

Unlike the film version there are no men in the play, save the voice of the local radio announcer which sets the tone and the time of year between scenes. That is just fine because the story is about how 6 strong willed women deal with day to day trials and tribulations in this sleepy little southern town where everybody knows your name and your business.

Whether it was because the cast was concentrating on the slow southern drawl or trying to convey the heat in a place where 39 degrees Fahrenheit is considered arctic conditions, it took a little while for the pace to get going and the humour to sink in to the audience.  

A Fly on The Wood, May 31, 2013

The Mind
by Jim Murchison 

The mind is a curious thing. Learning lines for the play was way more difficult for me than it used to be. A couple of weeks after I finished doing Taming of the Shrew, I decided it might be fun to see how many of the lines I could remember. I initially had difficulty remembering the very first line because it is a short interjection. Once I remembered what line cued it, it popped in and I was able to run all my lines for the entire play for all four characters.
It made me think of the effects of dementia. There is very little history of dementia in my family. My mother at 92 is still one of the brightest women I know, everything still intact mentally.

CharPo's Real Theatre! May 31, 2013

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Figaro's Wedding

Stephen Hegedus (photo by Darryl Block) 
Going to the Chapel
by Shannon Christy

Marriage is considered by a growing number of people as an unnecessary evil.  It is a huge expense on people strapped for cash, it is stressful, and more often than not it is not even that memorable.  Le Nozze di Figaro takes these points and puts them to music. Figaro's Wedding, an adaptation of Mozart’s most famous piece, takes the additional step of intermingling it with devices and events of our time. That they do this while providing beautiful performances is even better.  The story of Le Nozze di Figaro is about a couple of different love triangles with implied betrayal, confusion, and celebration tied in. It is comedy in its truest sense and if Against the Grain Theatre betrayed the original text by altering the words to fit our times, they certainly remained true to the comedic spirit of Lorenzo Da Ponte’s original creations.

That being said, the use of modern technology and the local references, especially the one that refers to how City Hall is cracking down, are great but it is the location and the performances that really set this show apart.

Review: (Stratford) Measure for Measure

Carmen Grant and Tom Rooney (photo by Michael Cooper)

Moulded Out of Faults
Stratford mounts a good production of a mediocre play
by Stuart Munro and Dave Ross

Measure for Measure has long been recognized as one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays.” While usually classified as a comedy, the themes of betrayal, political intrigue, and sexual coercion are anything but a laughing matter. The result is that the play ends up with a bit of a split personality – half intense political and romantic drama, and half farce, involving some clownish characters and an aging prostitute. Any director tackling this play certainly has a tough task ahead of them. 

Stuart Munro: Stratford veteran (and former Measure for Measure star), Martha Henry, lends her more than capable skill to this challenging material, and under her watchful eye the production probably succeeds better than it might’ve otherwise. Henry has chosen to set the play in 1949 post-war Vienna, a political atmosphere that, as Henry says in her director’s notes, is a perfect “setting for a story that depends on intrigue, chance, opportunity and picking up whatever you can in the street in order to make a living.” Henry’s direction uses the unconventional space of the Tom Patterson Theatre brilliantly, and I was constantly reminded of why this is one of my favourite venues in the world. The aesthetic created by Henry and designer John Pennoyer does a good job of conveying a film noire-inspired world of faded glory that is, slowly, on the way to recovery. Moreover, Todd Charlton’s sound design goes a long way to marrying the two disparate parts of this play – the comedy and the drama.

Picture of The Week, May 30, 2013

All the elements of Ganesh Versus The Third Reich, now playing the FTA, are here in Jeff Busby's superb photo: the swastika at the centre of the story, in the foreground the Nazi appropriating the symbol - a flash of red subtly reflected (and toned down) elsewhere - and the deity who wants its back in the shadows behind. Busby has gone beyond by suspending them in a darkness full of menace. 

The Album, May 30, 2013

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review: (Stratford) Fiddler on the Roof

Jewelle Blackman (top) with Kate Henning (bottom centre) and company (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

Tradition Abounds!
This Fiddler may play it safe, but the effect is powerful
by Stuart Munro and Dave Ross

Stratford’s first musical offering of the season is Bock and Harnick’s perennial classic, Fiddler on the Roof. This long-time favourite has been praised for its ability to speak to peoples from all backgrounds and histories; its appeal is that one doesn’t have to be Jewish to understand the plight of Tevye and his family – through him, we all become Jewish for the night and learn what it feels like to be marginalized and persecuted for no reason.

Stuart Munro: I want to start this off by saying I love this show. Fiddler is easily in my top five, all-time favourite musicals. And things last night started off well enough. The Festival Theatre stage has been transformed into two distinct locales – the greys of Anatevka in the world below, and the bright colours of the Chagall-inspired Heaven above (the title of the musical comes from a Marc Chagall painting called “The Green Violinist”). The opening number, “Tradition,” was exciting and set the tone for what should’ve been an equally exciting show. But somewhere along the way, things started to fall a little flat. And though I expect people will disagree with me strongly on this, the weak link in this production is Scott Wentworth as Tevye. Too often he played the comedy of the text, not the drama (the script is funny already, it doesn’t need help!), and he seemed to be in a tremendous rush. I just wanted him to slow down and take his time with the words. A lot of what Wentworth does works very well, but his principle motivations seemed misguided.

In a Word... Nancy Hitzig on the ad strategy for Figaro's Wedding at Against the Grain

A Drink in Hand, A Wedding to Organize
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Against the Grain Theatre, a small opera company in Toronto, has become famous for presenting the best opera in a small setting in the country. With the arrival of Nancy Hitzig as their general manager, they have begun to work hard to get the word out about their gem-like productions. We asked Ms Hitzig, who is the former manager of education and marketing at Opera Atelier, to discuss the company's strategy for Figaro's Wedding. (The production opens tonight and runs to June 2)

CHARPO: Tell us about the first sit-down where your advertising strategy for Figaro was hashed out. Who was there? Who proposed the ideas? What ideas stuck and which not?

HITZIG: Our collective meetings are always around a kitchen table! Joel [Ivany, artistic director], Caitlin [Coull, communications director], Toph [Mokrzewski, music director], Cecily [Carver, community engagement advisor], Miriam [Khalil, founding member] and I gather around the table with a drink in hand to figure things out! 

We wanted to approach Figaro’s Wedding as though it were a real wedding. We discussed a real engagement announcement in the Globe and Mail, having Christopher Plummer (or some other awesome Canadian actor) walk Susanna down the aisle, pop-up performances at local wedding shows, and other zany ideas. In the end, we decided on strategies that gave us great reach online and really helped tell the story to pique people’s interest.

We confirmed that all our promotion materials would be like a save-the-date - things that would make the audience members feel “invited.” We often find that the audience wants to feel like they are a part of something greater, an essential part of the art. That was where the proposal video and “meet the wedding party” video came from. [see both below] We wanted to get our audience revved up and excited to attend the wedding of the year!

Video of the Week, May 29, 2013

David Cooper is one of the country's best performance photographers. Watch this terrific video of his studio at work with Dance Transition Resource Centre.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review: (Stratford) Romeo and Juliet

Daniel Brière, Sarah Topham (photo credit: Don Dixon)

I Ne’er Saw True Beauty Till This Night
Stratford’s new Romeo and Juliet is a refreshing approach to a well-worn classic
by Dave Ross (@dmjross) and Stuart Munro (@StuartMunroTO)

Stratford’s 61st season got off to a stellar start last night with the festival’s new production of Romeo and Juliet. Helmed by Globe director, Tim Carroll, this version of Shakespeare’s classic attempts to use “original practices,” bringing the performing and viewing experience as closely as possible back to the 1590s when the play was first performed.

Stuart Munro: This approach was apparent as soon as you entered the Festival Theatre – the stage was completely bare, and for the first time in six years, the theatre’s original design by Tanya Moiseiwitsch stood centre stage.

Dave Ross: I agree – my first show ever at the Stratford Festival was with this stage, but the handful of shows I’ve seen since have not used it and instead having large, elaborate designs. This isn’t to say that these larger designs don’t have their place, but it is refreshing to see this stage restored. It brought incredible focus to the performers and the text. During the first act of the play I made a mental note that none of the performers were blowing me away, but I soon came to realize that I was seeing an incredibly talented, cohesive cast, where every performance, from the supernumeraries to the leads, was, in a word, excellent. Without technical whizbangery to conceal any weak performances, they had to be. 

Review: (Montreal) Winners and Losers (FTA)

(Long (r) and Youssef (photo credit: Simon Hayter)

by Chad Dembski

I can’t think of a better way to review the Festival TransAmériques show from Vancouver “Winners and Losers” than:
Why Winners and Losers is a Loser.
“Winners and Losers” is a loser because it attempts throughout to being authentic and thought up on the spot when it is mostly set.  Although setting a theatre piece is one of cornerstones of what you are actually supposed to do it doesn’t always translate well into a performance arena. A simple show where topics (of all natures) are brought up for discussion and argued between the two performers, Jamie Long and Marcus Youssef, it seems natural maybe to let a majority of it be contemporary and completely change every night.  The setting of the answers seems to stifle the beginning of the show, holding back these highly energetic and charismatic performers who seem to have a lot more to say than what they are letting out.  Major topics such as the Canadian Senate, Africa, and the First Nations get a light touch but a superficial touch where a real discussion could actually take place.  At the half way point I became bored with the “game”, which didn’t seem to really have rules, or the rules were not being followed.  I was hoping for more personal touches that were only beginning to come through and then….

Review Squared, May 28, 2013

Vacation Week Round Up
by Valerie Cardinal

There are many good theatre reviews out there this week. Well, there are good reviews out there any week, really – this is just the week I picked to do a short round up in this column. What makes me sad is that even though I'm in Montreal for the weekend, all the exciting summer theatre festivals don't start until the beginning of June. I am way too early for the Fringe Festival or the Festival TransAmérique. Reading this summer preview in the Montreal Gazette made me wish I could make a trip back in a few weeks. Alas, I cannot. Happily, this will be my first year at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, so there's that.

But back to this week's rundown, since I read quite a few reviews that made me wish I had the money and time to go city-hopping. 

After Dark, May 28, 2013

Sometimes things are just not fucking funny
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Seth Romatelli and Jonathan Laroquette make a podcast called Uhh Yeah Dude (UYD). On Marc Maron's sayso, I downloaded all 350-some-odd episodes and started listening from #1. As of this writing I am at #98. Every single episode has made me laugh out loud.


Also as I write this Radio-Canada has reported that Tyrone Benskin, the former artistic director of Black Theatre Workship and MP for the NDP now, has been kicked from the shadow cabinet for non-payment of provincial taxes. $58,000, says the news.

Before I even started writing this op I was in a pretty pissy mood. I am so tired of our goddam ruling class I want to flip. It is just a mountainous pile of crap that is now rolling down on all of us and threatening to make us all the hideous cynics we see every night among the poli-pundits. 

Why is this dangerous? Because art requires a certain generosity of spirit and lack of cynicism. Yes, it can comment, but when it tumbles into pure rage it can become as tedious as those pundits as a little bit of rage - on stage - goes a very long way indeed. 


During a break from work I sit on the balcony and listen to UYD. They find biting, hair-raisingly "improper" humour in real news. In a segment called "This Week in Florida" they chronicle the sunshine state's woes including the story of a door-to-door conman who passed himself off as a doctor and offered at-home breast exams. I laugh my fool ass off.


Then, of course, there's Rob Ford - a story that has lost all its humour for me and is just another depressing tale of absolute power corrupting absolutely. And WTF!, Barack, and the IRS and AP and Guantanamo and drones and sequestration! Unpotable water in Montreal! And Duffy and Wallin and Brazeau and and and and and... I mourn at all of this because things - important things - are not being taken care or. We are being devoured. Meanwhile theatres are reporting losses, weakening subscription numbers, well-reviewed plays not selling out.

But there's Twitter! There's Facebook! Surely the word about theatre is getting out there! No... Because Twitter and Facebook are relentless when it comes to stories about crack and criminal senators and right-wing governmental excess and left-wing governmental gutlessness. Twitter and Facebook are great tools but sometimes it can be as difficult to find other news I might care about there as it is to find them on CNN when they're on a Boston/Hurricane/Jodi Arias tear. 

We already suspected culture/art was low on people's priority list but - even amongst artists - it is getting lower still. Hidden by the "big" stories which come and go are stories of the working poor (most actors, playwrights and creatives fall in this class) truly struggling to continue working. Many of them - some of the best - give up.


Romatelli and Laroquette are going nuts. Their chemistry is brilliant. Romatelli is insanely quick and Laroquette laughs as madly as I do. Laroquette tells a story about being caught by his famous father, when he was a kid, masturbating. He paints the picture beautifully and I am in tears because I can almost see the reaction of Laroquette Senior. 

Here's the thing. These guys have been doing this since 2006 and, they told Maron last month, they don't make a living wage despite the absolute joy they bring to a fairly broad audience. Their listeners fall into two groups, I believe: those who expect everything for free and those who would support them if they could (as I would). The slogan on the website for UYD is "Older but poorer".

Does this sound familiar? Does this sound like every theatre practitioner who can't charge a real price for the product they sell (as opposed to a price acceptable to their audience). Does this sound like the army of online workers who do it for love?

Thing is - Uhh Yeah Dude is just another quite brilliant voice lost in a true cacophony or, if you'll permit the phrase-making, Caco-phonies. Those phonies can be the moron who thinks he can do a podcast because anyone can (and can, into the bargain, get listed with UYD on iTunes). She can be the young woman who figured out iMovie and does truly miserable sketch comedy on YouTube. How about the blogger who has nothing to say but about everything! Sure!

There was a time when the best of the net rose to the top. No more. Not because there isn't a best but because instead of hearing them, we are talking about shit-bird senators, bathtub murderesses, Somali drug lords and crack-smoking mayors.

Politicians? How's that for Caco-phonies.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Openings We're Tracking This Week, May 26-June 1

(photo by Jeff Busby [cropped])

The Question, May 27, 2013

part sociologist, part cultural anthropologist, and part creative problem solver
by Estelle Rosen

One of Canada's preeminent play translators, Shelley Tepperman is also a dramaturg with a long history in Canadian theatre specializing in script development, project development, and translation for the stage. She translates from French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese and her more than 30 play translations—three of which were nominated for Canada’s prestigious Governor General’s Literary Award—have been produced on CBC radio and on stages throughout North America and the United Kingdom. Her most recent GG nomination was for The List.  Shelley spent several years working for CBC Radio Arts and Entertainment.  She also works in documentary film and television as a writer, director, and story editor.

CHARPO: What makes an effective play translator and what challenges did you face in the translation of La Liste/The List by Jennifer Tremblay?  
TEPPERMAN: A play translator is often a bridge between cultures. An effective play translator needs a variety of skills…  an understanding of how a play works as a piece of theatre, an acute sense of the rhythms and music of spoken language, and the ability to write in many different voices.  But beyond that it's essential to understand how the play reaches audiences in its original culture, and how this can be recreated or adapted for the new target audience. 
With a play, you’re never merely translating the literal meaning of the words, you're conveying the many things the author is accomplishing with the words. The words are the surface of the play: they provide codes and clues, and serve as a map for the creative team who will bring the play to life. The words must function as believable dialogue but covertly deliver additional meaning: literary, psychological, social, political, and historical. 

Lane's News, May 27, 2013

News Round-Up
by Chris Lane

Another one bites the dust: 
The Centre for the Performing Arts in Vancouver will no longer be a home for Vancouver theatre, according to reports that it has been sold to an evangelical church. This follows last year’s closure of the Playhouse Theatre, one of Canada’s oldest theatre companies. Some are lamenting the Centre’s relatively quiet exit as a tragedy in a city sometimes criticized for the state of its arts scene, while others won’t miss what might never have been more than a white elephant.

Seasons announced: 
The University of Toronto’s Hart House Theatre has announced the four plays it will feature next season, which include Twelfth Night and Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). Ottawa’s Gladstone Theatre has announced a packed lineup for their next season, including works by Noël Coward, Linda Griffiths and Norm Foster.


Ontario’s best community theatre productions have been recognized by the Theatre Ontario Festival 2013 Awards. Espanola Little Theatre’s production of Looking took the top spot, while individual awards went to director Walter Maskel and actors Michèle Browne and Jeff Bastien, as well as others from theatres in Markham, Windsor and Merrickville. The Professional Association of Canadian Theatres has presented its Mallory Gilbert Leadership Award to Toronto’s David Abel, who selected Rebecca Singh as a “protégé” who will receive part of the award.

Review: (Calgary) Legally Blonde

by Josef Vermeulen

With passionate energy, Legally Blonde the Musical has burst onto the stage at the Pumphouse Theatre.  Presented by Front Row Centre Players, Calgary’s community theatre musical company, Legally Blonde’s cast and production team are closing out their season with a bang.

Telling the story of Elle Woods, who ends up at Harvard Law chasing love, Legally Blonde is a musical theatre rendition of the movie with the same title. Elle’s journey from lovesick girl to full blown stereotype-busting woman is given excellent treatment on the musical stage and is, dare I say it, better than the movie. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Feature: Interview - Director Bruce Gladwin; Ganesh Versus the Third Reich

(photo credit: Jeff Busby)

The Elephant and the Swastika; The Journey of Ganesh Versus the Third Reich
How a small-town Australian company created world-acclaimed and mind-bending theatre
by Chad Dembski

CHARPO: How did Back to Back theatre first come together?  How has it grown to its current state?
GLADWIN: The company is based in Geelong, a small regional centre just south of Melbourne in Australia.  It started in 1997, at a point of the institutionalization of Australia.  So the defining feature of the company is that it employs actors with intellectual disabilities.  It started as a series of workshops, with a number of artists; visual artists, theatre makers, and a musician running workshops with people with disabilities in our community.  All three of those artists were drawn to an outsider art aesthetic and started applying that to theatre.  The company has never worked from existing scripts, it’s always a collective writing process, like a devised process.
The very first show that the company produced started touring so this process where the company makes work not just for the community that it’s based in, but also for a touring program became the model of operation.  The scale of work has built over the years, I’m the fourth Artistic Director and I think each director has taken the company in their own specific aesthetic direction.  When I joined the company one of the agendas that the ensemble had was to tour more broadly and to tour internationally.  We set about trying to make work that would have a broader resonance, with our audience.  
Our presentation of “SOFT” for the 2005 Melbourne International Festival was a play about pre-natal screening, emerging genetic technology. It was obviously quite pertinent for the actors in the company because the work positioned the actors as being kind of obsolete in society, and not wanted. We aim to make work that comes from the idiosyncratic voice of the actors but it kind of speaks to all people. A lot of the thematics we’re dealing with are about power, power difference, and the machinations of power. But really each work is trying to answer questions that are raised in a previous work, so it’s like an ongoing investigation in many ways.

Sunday Feature: Interview - James Long and Marcus Youssef on Winners and Losers (FTA)

Long (l) and Youssef (all photos by Simon Hayter)

80% set, 20% Brand New, and Going too Far
What is it to win?  Was is it to lose?  What is it about approaching middle age and going, “do I have my shit together”?
by Chad Dembski
James Long and Marcus Youssef bring their two-person piece “Winners and Losers” to Festival Trans Amèriques (FTA). The piece premièred last year in Richmond, B.C. and then showed at the 2013 PuSh festival in Vancouver.  I have been to a few of Theatre Replacement’s pieces before (“The greatest Cities in the World”, Magnetic North Festival 2010, “Weetube” at the 2011 SuperNova Festival in Halifax) and always been intrigued by the variety in their work.  Marcus Youssef runs New World Theatre, a company I am less familiar with (as I do not get to Vancouver as much as I would like) but has a strong history of independent, political and risky work.  James Long and Marcus Youssef  are friends and collaborators. In this interview they share their unique and exciting new project and its beginnings.
CHARPO: When did you first meet?
LONG: My first memory was in 2005 at a shared office where Marcus was an associate artist at New World Theatre.  Marcus had just come back from Concordia with a distinct sense on his return of who would fit where at New World Theatre.  
YOUSSEF: We ended up getting to know each other as office mates.  I went to Concordia in 2004/05 as a replacement, as “Ted’s little friend”, I called myself.  Had a great time, considered staying in Montreal but decided to return to Vancouver. One of the reasons was being asked to take over the company for a while. Also the scene in Vancouver gave me the sense that for the first time in my life, I saw a chance to be part of something bigger, rather than just the individual thing each of us happen to be doing.

The Devil's Advocate - Topics

The Devil's Advovate is, simply, a premise presented, a question posed. Feel free to comment as each will be an open thread. Spam will be immediately removed. Also, the same comments guidelines as for the entire site apply here.

#4 Should an artist respond to a critic?

#3 How do we fix the Canada Council?

#2 Space Cadets? Do Canadian companies lack the imagination or wherewithal when it comes to venues?

#1 - Is the Fringe detroying Canadian Theatre?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Nella Tempesta (FTA)

(photo credit: Andrea Gallo)
Heart, yes! Substance...
by Chad Dembski
I did not see Too Late! (antigone) or Alexis. Una tregedia greca during the Festival TransAmériques in 2012 but heard plenty of positive and rave reviews of both shows after the fact.  The company MOTUS seemed to hit Montreal at the perfect moment of the Maple Spring, the daily orchestra of evening protests in almost every Montreal area of pots and pans and with a massive feeling of change in the air.  At the core of MOTUS seems to be a desire for change, to build a Utopia here and now and for the future of all mankind.  
Nella Tempesta uses Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” as its base to ask questions around power, master and servant and how we can help each other.  Huge piles of blankets are used in various ways to represent a wide variety of objects from a boat, a rock, and a cape. The piece begins promising with a storm scene with strobe lighting that instantly brings us into the space. From there though the piece falls apart more and more as it plods along with seemingly little to no direction. A script is brought on stage and various attempts at Act 1 Scene 1 are approached but often stopped or questioned before they really get going.  The piece plays more like an open rehearsal where none of the performers have made any solid decisions on how they want to play the piece. 

Review: (Toronto) KAMP

(photo credit: Herman Helle)

Provocative Puppetry
Concentration KAMP on Camera
by Jason Booker

A piece with thousands of puppets sounds accessible, right? 

Imagine though that they are each only eight centimetres tall. For the audience, the best way to view these puppets with smears and holes for faces – expressive but frozen – is actually not to sit next to them or even to look directly at them. 

Instead look up.

This world of miniatures sprawls across one of the deepest stages possible at the Enwave Theatre but is surrounded by white sheets.  Using a series of hand-held webcams and camcorders, the puppeteers project the lives of these anonymous yet adorable puppets onto the back wall so that the audience can watch the minute details of this show.  Really, to watch those same minute details of the characters’ lives as KAMP captures the gruesome details of a day in the life of Auschwitz, the notorious World War II concentration camp.

Theatre For Thought, May 25, 2013

joel fishbane

Another critic / artist kerfuffle spilled onto the Internet last week after Canadian director / writer Morris Panych attacked the review of the play, Our Betters, which Panych directed for the Shaw fest. The Globe and Mail’s J. Kelly Nestruck did not care for the material, dubbing it, among other things, “mildly misogynistic”. Nestruck’s review argued that Our Betters was a dated play that hadn’t stood the test of time.

Panych, using the forum on the Globe and Mail’s comment page, replied with a response worthy of inclusion in the Canadian tax code – which is to say it used a lot of words to convey a simple point. Panych believes that Nestruck’s displeasure came from viewing Our Betters, written in 1915, through a 21st century lens.  “You talk about the play being written in 1915 during trench warfare, but how we failed to acknowledge this in the play because it's 2013,” wrote Panych. “What an existential mind-bender! You, a mere boy in pants, have sorted through the space-time continuum to discover the central flaw – not only in this production, but in all productions, past, present, and to come - that plays are performed 'after' they are written.”

creating a/broad, May 25, 2013

by Cameryn Moore

I was going to write this whole column this week about how I’m starting to see the merit and the interest in writing shows that other people would perform in with me, and maybe at some point shows that other people would perform in without me, and wouldn’t that be a mind-blowing thing? I’m still going to write that piece, but that is not this week. This week is the week that filming is happening for the feature-film adaptation of Phone Whore, a five-day shoot in an apartment, and everything normal is out the window. 

I think I’m maybe going to get half the word count in for this week’s column, and I’ll be happy with even that.

I’m writing this in the morning of the second day of filming, one day under my belt, and maybe by the time you read this, by the time Saturday rolls around, I will understand all these things, but right now I’m just sitting here AMAZED by so many things in film work, like, how come I’m so tired even though all I did yesterday is sit on my ass and wait for the director to call me over and do the scene again? Seriously, my whole body feels like it’s been through a pebble polisher. Or a meat grinder. Or just stomped on by 20 football players at once. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Sketchfest

Vest of Friends

Highs and Lows
but Toronto's Vest of Friends a breath of fresh, funky air
by Caitlin Murphy

Montreal’s Sketchfest, now celebrating its 8th year, is serving up a week-long comedy buffet at Theatre Ste. Catherine.  Though its PR boasts acts from as far afield as Chicago, Vancouver and Calgary, the festival’s specific line up features troupes primarily from Montreal and Toronto, with one each from New York and Philadelphia.

In last night’s early show, the strongest acts book-ended the evening: Toronto’s all-female Lady Business, and all-male Vest of Friends both delivered solid sets.  The evening overall though, clocking in at almost 2.5 hours, certainly wore beyond its potential appeal.  Maxing out at three acts per show, or cutting some of the emcee’s rambling intro would make for a tighter night, with a mightier punch.

Review: (Vancouver) Mump and Smoot in Something

Guffaws from the Heart.
“National treasures!” Scream the posters. Go see why.
by David C. Jones

Mump and Smoot – clowns of horror have been touring the world charming and shocking guffawing audiences since 1986. Go see why.

Most of the audience was older (Mump and Smoot last presented Something in Vancouver 1994) and most were eagerly there for their second time. Go see why.

This is the last show in The Cultch season and their fourth or fifth clown show – don’t be scared – and like two others of them - Blind Date and I, Malvolio - the audience is part of the show – don’t be scared.

Multi-Media, May 24, 2013

My Wagner
Cosmic connections, music/man/myth, nine T&I's, Mahler

We asked friends to write us a small piece on the theme "My Wagner" to celebrate the composer's 200th anniversary this week. Enjoy!

Axel Van Chee (former opera critic for The Charlebois Post)
I remember my first Wagner, I was 22 and it was on the first night upon arriving in Sydney, Australia. After checking into the hostel, I went immediately to the iconic opera house to see what was on offer, it was Tannhäuser. The only seats available were the expensive front rows where you can observe the beads of sweat dripping our of the pores of the singers, I told the kind lady that I would just get a standing room ticket. She looked at me and replied in a concerned tone, "you do know that this is a Wagner right? I really don't think you want to stand though it." I told her that I was just a student backpacker with a tight budget and reaffirmed my decision. She took pity on me and gave me a seat in the box at a price slightly above standing room, then wished me a great time in Australia. 

I remember the opera vividly: it was an avant-garde production, and incidentally, my first avant-garde opera ever. Venus came on stage bathed in neon green lights while wearing a skin tight silver lame dress, complete with spiked high heels and a whip. The chorus pranced about her in S&M costumes and tormented each other. There were giant mirrors and lots and lots of lasers. Throughout the opera, men in post-modern, gothic crow/bat costumes were suspended above and about the sets, perched in precarious positions, and observed the going ons on the stage. They occasionally expended their wings to reconfigure into grotesque and unfathomable shapes. 

A Fly On The Wall, May 24, 2013

The Crossroads
by Jim Murchison 

Life is very interesting. It is difficult at times and not always fun, but most of us choose to hang on to it. It is so unpredictable. A couple of years ago, I was pretty much a father and a civil servant. When I was asked to do a weekly column, I chose to call it A Fly on the Wall because I felt I was a fly on the wall; someone that had one foot in the theatrical world but with a background of once being a part of it. 

Now I find myself interviewing artistic directors, discussing in informal forums ideas on the direction of theatre nationally and in Ottawa with other actors, directors and writers, and even acting again. This and critiquing theatre I had barely considered 3 years ago. Now I am faced with choices of what I should review and what I should assign to others as I am the Ottawa editor in chief and have exciting writers anxious to go out and see theatre working with me. 

Real Theatre, May 24, 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Enemy of the People (FTA)

(photo credit: Arno Declair)

by Chad Dembski
Yesterday there was announced the largest water boil alert in Montreal history.  It has effected almost every citizen in the entire city and paralyzed some businesses (cafés) and caused chaos around buying simple bottled water. It would almost seem too perfect for the FTA to open on May 22nd with a radical adaptation of Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” that has at its core a dilemma around contaminated water in the local Baths from which most of the city gains its profit. The plot of the play seemed a surprise to many in the audience and helped instantly engage them in this highly visceral and participatory theatrical event.

Review: (Vancouver) Dissolve

A very real depiction of sexual assault
Dissolve succeeds at being entertaining, informative and powerful
by Chris Lane

Playwright Meghan Gardiner hopes to be put out of business by her play’s material becoming irrelevant. Yet that’s unfortunately not the case, as Dissolve’s subject matter, drug-facilitated sexual assault, is just as common as ever.

The play tells the story of a college student, dubbed “Anygirl” in the program, going out for a night on the town that takes a turn for disaster. She wakes up the next day without any recollection of the previous night, to learn that she slept with a man she had repeatedly rejected, despite feeling pretty sure she only had one drink.

News: Toronto Theatre Critics' Awards Winners

Big winner Terminus (in photo: Maev Beatty who also won for Best Actress in Proud; photo by Josie Di Luzio) 

Directly from Press release with some reformatting (links are to CharPo's reviews of the winning shows and artists):
Terminus tops 2013 Toronto Theatre Critics' Awards 

May 23, 2013 - The Toronto Theatre Critics' Awards were announced today - with Outside the March's production of Mark O'Rowe's play Terminus the most celebrated production of the season.

Presented as the inaugural show of Mirvish Productions' Off-Mirvish subscription series after its premiere at the SummerWorks Festival, Terminus picked up four awards, including best production and best director of a play for Mitchell Cushman.

The Book of Mormon, another Mirvish presentation currently playing at the Princess of Wales, was the second most lauded show of the year; it was named best production of a musical, while Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker were named best director of a musical.

Now in their third year, the Toronto Theatre Critics' Awards are voted upon by critics representing five of the city's newspapers and weeklies: The Globe and Mail (J. Kelly Nestruck); The Grid (Martin Morrow); NOW (Glenn Sumi); The National Post (Robert Cushman); and the Toronto Star (Richard Ouzounian). The critics considered shows that opened between June of 2012 and May of 2013. Awards will be given out at the Spoke Club (600 King St. West) at a date to be determined.

NB: During deliberations, jurors who had a conflict of interest with an eligible production were not allowed to nominate or vote for that production - except in the case of a tie.

Full list of winners below.

Picture of the Week, May 23, 2013

It's not often we feature a full-on face shot as our POTW, but this Dahlia Katz portrait for Making Love With Espresso, featuring Lorenzo Pagnotta, is not only delicious in its own right, it is also a perfect example of Ms Katz's magnificent work. She has a way with faces (as we saw in her previous work for Antony and Cleopatra where she transformed without transforming actor Gillian English and in her picture of the year from last year). The details - beyond the actors' eyes - capture the viewer: the fingers on the cup, the watch, the hat, the few locks of curly hair). In short, Ms Katz helps the subject to draw us into the picture; she lets the actors act. 

The Album, May 23, 2013

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

In a Word... Ed Roy on directing the Doras Gala

The Man Dora Chose
by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Ed Roy's various activities as a theatre practitioner include directing, writing, dramaturgy, acting, teaching, lecturing and producing. During his 25-year career, he has participated in the creation of over 80 theatre productions. He has been the recipient of numerous awards and nominations including the Pauline McGibbon Award for Directing, Dora Award for Outstanding Direction (Including five Dora nominations for Outstanding Direction), two Dora Awards for Outstanding Production (including four Dora nominations for Outstanding Production), and the Chalmers Play Writing Award (including two nominations).  As an actor, Mr. Roy was nominated for a Dora Award for Outstanding Performance in VideoCabaret's The Life and Times of Mackenzie King. His is also the proud recipient of Toronto's Harold Award (independent alternative to the Dora Awards). His productions have toured extensively throughout Canada and internationally; New York City, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Great Britain, Wales, Paris (France), Haarlem, Amsterdam, and Tokyo (Japan national tour). Presently, he is developing several new shows including his one-man performance lecture The History of the World, Bully in the Ballroom (a dance/theatre piece) and Blood and Chicken Wings a Rock-a-Billy Musical. 

CHARPO: When did you first get the call to do the Gala and how fast did you have to be all over it?

ROY: If memory serves me I believe I was contacted by Jacoba Knaapen [the Producer of the Doras and TAPA's Executive Director] in Sept./Oct.2012 and offered the opportunity to direct the Gala. By December 2012 we were discussing how the Gala had worked in the past, what Jacoba's expectations were and what my responsibilities entailed as basically creative and show director.