Text of Broadcast reviews of: BEA and KAMP

by Lynn on May 24, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following reviews were broadcast on Friday, May 24, 2013, CIUT FRIDAY MORNING, CIUT 89.5 FM. BEA at the Factory Theatre Studio until May 26 and KAMP at the Enwave Theatre at Harbourfront until May 26.

The Guest Host is Phil Taylor.


1)   It’s Friday morning which means Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer is here to give us our theatre fix for the week. Hi Lynn. What do you have for us?


Hi Phil. I have two challenging plays that take two sobering subjects and deal with them in intriguing ways.

First BEA by British writer Mick Gordon at the Factory Theatre Studio, about a young woman named Bea with a debilitating disease and how she wants to deal with it.

And KAMP is a play created by a company called Hotel Modern from the Netherlands—the last production in the World Stage festival. KAMP is a day in the life of a concentration camp, namely Auschwitz.


2)   Sobering indeed. Tell us about BEA


It’s produced by the Actors’ Repertory Company. Bea suffers from a debilitating disease which renders her bedridden. She’s unable to move. Her speech is also affected and sounds distorted. Bea knows she will not get better and she wants to die and tries to convince her mother of this.

Bea has a new caregiver named Ray.The mother wanted a woman caregiver but Ray says there weren’t any so they were stuck with him. Ray is engaging, upbeat, attentive, eager to help and please and I think suffering from ADHD. He writes the letter for Bea in which she tells her mother she wants to die and why.


3)   You say it deals with this sobering subject in an intriguing way. How is it intriguing?


Because while Bea is initially in the bed, absolutely still, while we file into the theatre,  for the first hour of this 1 hour and 45 minute show, Bea is bopping around the set, flipping over the bed, swinging on bars above her bed as if she is in training for gymnastics for the Olympics.

She is interrupted by Ray who has arrived to start his work as her caregiver. He has his own baggage to contend with. He refers to himself as “not gay Ray.”

(Subtext is everything in the theatre. He seems hyper-active and talks a mile-a-minute, often getting distracted by his own conversation.

 Ray and Bea form a strong bond. He is told his duties, giving Bea her meds etc. and how difficult it will be to take care of her. (Considering her lively behaviour this seems odd). With all this prolonged lively activity I wonder how is this person dying?

 Then finally playwright Mick Gordon shows us the truth about Bea, as she sinks down onto her bed, helpless.  The previous one hour is Bea’s ideal; her dream of being able to move quickly and gracefully like any normal young woman. The following 45 minutes is Bea’s reality. She must depend on her mother and caregivers for everything, from giving her medication; to feeding her to cleaning her up.

 Mrs. James is a strong, no-nonsense woman who is reluctant to accept Bea’s request to die. She has trouble with Ray. She always seems to come into the room in the most awkward moments—when he is giving Bea some booze.

 Playwright Mick Gordon is an accomplished theatre practitioner in England. He has written several plays and essays dealing with theatre and the mind. With Bea he is attempting to deal with the thorny, heart-aching problem of disability and the right to die by assisted suicide. And he misses.


4)   How does he miss?


By his own admission in an essay, when he goes into the theatre he is distracted by questions that come up that the play doesn’t answer quickly enough. The same thing happens for me in Bea. Showing us a healthy, lively woman, joyful and energetic, bopping around the set for one hour, but with hints that there is some illness, is not conducive to convincing us that she is dying of a debilitating disease. It’s confusing. Only in the last 45 minutes does it become clear, but that is a long, damaging hour before hand.

 And then there is the matter of the deliberate misquote.

In the final minutes of the play, Ray has brought Bea a present; the text of A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams.

 He has read her the whole play and comes to the last scene, when the fragile-minded Blanche, is led off by a doctor and nurse while Stanley woos his wife Stella back to him. Ray reads the scene, complete with stage directions, getting more and more agitated for some reason. And then he comes to Blanche’s most famous line in the play and he reads: “I have always relied on the kindness of strangers.”

 I’m thinking, ‘no you don’t”. It’s wrong. The line is “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Ray refers to the line again and reads it in the same way—the wrong way. One has to ask why Mick Gordon would change a word in a perfect line and render it imperfect; unpoetic; wrong. I was taken out of the play because of that.The saving grace for this disappointing play is the cast.


5) How do they do?


As Bea, Bahareh Yaraghi is vibrant and fearless as she jumps, flits around the stage in her imagined ideal state; and heartbreaking when confined to her bed; shaking; voice distorted. As Mrs. James, Deborah Drakeford makes a journey from brittle but concerned mother, to a woman who loves her daughter enough to let her go. This is a firm, focused, performance of a woman whose guts must be in a knot all the time with worry.

As Ray, Brendan McMurtry-Howlett has charm, is disarming with his ADHD and eagerness to please, but he is not served well by his director Aleksandar Lukač. He has McMurtry-Howlett yelling most of his lines and certainly when reading the scene from A Streetcar Named Desire. McMurtry-Howlett has tender moments, but his director robs him of more of them.

 And Lukač had several scenes at the end in freeze frame that gave the production several false endings. Too fussy by half.

 The idea of dramatising the subjects of disability and assisted suicide is interesting and provocative. Unfortunately the play Bea doesn’t do it justice, in spite of a committed cast.


5)   Now tell us about KAMP. What intriguing way do they deal with this devastating place?


A day in the life of Auschwitz during the war.

 Let me first tell you about the company—Hotel Modern. They blend visual art, drama, music, film, modelling and performance to view the world from a macro perspective….they believe that experiencing theatre can encourage reconciliation….they represent harsh reality in a subtle and poetic way.

 They have created a scale model of Auschwitz that takes over the entire stage of the Enwave Theatre.The prisoners all wear the stripped pajama uniform. There is no differentiating between prisoners—no yellow Stars of David; no pink triangles for homosexual etc. The guards wear their military uniform.They are all portrayed by 8 centimetre tall hand made stick puppets. And there are thousands of them. The heads are lumpy like potato heads. Two holes for the eyes, one for the mouth and the expressions are of despair and horror.

 Three performers, manipulate the puppets in full view.

 Because the puppets are so small, the activity is filmed while it’s happening and then projected large on the back wall of the stage, making it look like a black and white news reel. There is no dialogue. But the sound effects are stunning.

 A character rakes the dirt and we hear that scratching sound. Other characters saw wood. As soup is poured into a bowl we hear that liquid splashing sound. We hear the slurping sound of soup being gulped. Then the licking sound as a character greedily, desperately licks his bowl clean. For a second we get a sense of starvation because of the image and the sound.

 We hear the screeching sound of a (miniature) train  arriving down the centre of the camp, with a new load of prisoners.

 It’s all there: the pouring of the Ziclon B gas pellets into a hole in the ceiling, down into the shower room below; the same scene is repeated later on but from the point of view of the prisoners in the shower room; the bodies being shoved into the crematoria; a desperate prisoner flinging himself against an electrified fence (we hear the soft humming of the electricity flowing through the wires), and the last scene in the barracks with people packed into the bunk beds, sleeping, and all we hear is the sound of breathing, laboured, wheezing, heavy, until the lights and sound fade.

 The whole enterprise is astonishing because the imagination is so powerful that it takes these vivid stick puppets and transforms them into people.


6)   Lynn it’s such a hard story. Why should we see it?


Because it’s art.

Out of hell comes art.

Because it’s important.

Because it’s brave in the telling and provocative.

Because it reminds us that if we see wrong and do nothing then it happens again.

Theatre reflects our world.

It tells our stories.

It is embracing even when the story is as tough as this one.

KAMP is a stunning piece of theatre that must be seen.


Thanks Lynn. That’s Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. You can read Lynn’s blog at www.slotkinletter.com

Bea plays at the Factory Theatre Studio until May 26.

KAMP plays at the Enwave Theatre until May 26.

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