by Jim Murchison
One of the great joys of festivals like Undercurrents and Fringe is the spareness of the theatre. I am not a hater of great elaborate sets and large sets; far from it. One of, if not the greatest theatre experiences I ever had as an audience was seeing Sweeney Todd on Broadway with Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou, but there have also been big ballyhooed productions that were so into their effects and themselves that they have lost their vision and heart. They are big for bigness' sake.
When you see young independent companies that have a story they want to tell with just a box of rudimentary props or a couple of pieces of furniture it is truly theatre in its purest form. When it works, it is like the performer or performer's heart and the audience's beat in unison. The intimacy of the space and the leanness of any trappings pull you in and if the performer is connecting you are instantly connected to them.
There is one production at Undercurrents that I will not be part of or review. It would actually be unfair of me to go. It is called Can We Talk and there is only room for an audience of one. The phone rings and the call is for you. Someone is calling from Victoria to talk about Ottawa and they want to share their dreams and thoughts with you. I won't take that opportunity away from anyone else, but I may find someone that walks out from behind the curtained telephone with the lovely little plate of cookies and find out about it, because it fascinates me. Theatre in its purest form is after all, just a conversation.