A Beautiful Play
by Will Britton
(Republished in collaborating with Kingston Theatre Reviews
It is through the partnership of Theatre Kingston and Volcano Theatre that A Beautiful View, Daniel MacIvor’s play about another partnership, is currently playing in the Baby Grand Studio. Two women appear on stage and tell the story of their relationship. Sound simple? Of course it does. But of course it’s not.
As is typical of MacIvor’s work, A Beautiful View is far from a neatly packaged, linear and straightforward night at the theatre. In this case, though, such is entirely suitable because the same can be said of the nature of self-identity, friendship, and love as explored in the piece. Just like any meaningful relationship, the play demands a level of commitment – a combination of effort and perseverance to see it through to its end. For it’s only at the end that the various elements of the narrative come full circle and truly make sense. For those who manage to navigate the entire journey of the two performers, it is a beautiful and touching experience. The risk, however, is that there will, no doubt, also be some audience members who find themselves left behind, with more questions than answers – quite possibly appreciating the artistic merit of the production, but not fully understanding it. Kind of like a box of light.
The two young women featured in this Volcano Theatre production, Becky Johnson and Amy Rutherford, are exceptional in their individual performances, but truly shine as a pair. While Johnson’s character approaches the dynamic relationship with more curiosity and levity, Rutherford brings a complimentary gravity to the piece. But the respective role of each in this partnership is anything but static – and it’s the constant shifting in control, tension, and interdependence that make for such a compelling story. “Chemistry” is an often over-used term, but in this instance these women most definitely have it and they generously share it, drawing the audience even further into their affectionate tale.
A simple set, running through the middle of the Baby Grand and dividing the audience into two, offers them a liberating playground to ply their craft. Although effective as an intimate yet detached space suitable to the episodic nature and themes of the play, director Ross Manson’s alley-staging does often make it necessary to consciously decide which of the two performers will be the benefactor of your attention at any point in time. This can be distracting in itself, and maybe more irksome is the awareness that you could be – and very likely are - missing something quite meaningful in the other’s reaction. (A tip: As you choose your seat in the theatre, it cannot hurt to be aware of who is sitting across from you…no matter your degree of focus or the quality of the performance, excessive movement from a fellow patron will inevitably draw your attention.)
It must be noted that the imaginative and effective lighting design of Rebecca Picherack adds incredible depth and dimension to the world of the play, and further enhances both the beauty and the turmoil. The music, composed by Krister Schuchardt, is also quite good, but there seemed to be some inconsistency in the sound levels throughout the production, which stood out given how tight all of the other technical elements were under the stewardship of Stage Manager A.J. Laflamme.
Kingston theatre-goers are seldom treated to an artistic work of this nature presented at such high a calibre. A Beautiful View is a provocative work that can and should be appreciated on many levels.