Review of three RHUBARB shows.

by Lynn on February 20, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto, Ont.

Various productions.

The Rhubarb Festival at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, until Feb. 22.

Rhubarb a festival produced by Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, of short works, cabaret acts, snippets of drama and comedy and eclectic offerings. This is its 36 year.

There is activity all over the building, not just in the two theatre spaces. There might be a dance piece in the corridor or in the washrooms. I saw a mixed bag of offerings last night that varied in quality in the writing and the performance. Of the five offerings I saw, two are forgettable or just dumb so I won’t waste time talking about them.

Of the three shows one was called Susanna Bird about a young teen who is sky diving and her parachute doesn’t open. The play covers her last 10 seconds of life. And the whole thing is performed by Morgan Johnson on a trapeze. It’s written by Natalie Frijia, it’s and intriguing idea and inventively done.

The Archivist by Shaista Latif.

She is one of the reasons I went to Rhubarb. Shaista Latif did a show at Summerworks called Graceful Rebellions that I loved. Latif has a distinctive voice—meaning writing voice; vivid, economical, embracing about life as a gay, Canadian Afghan woman.

In The Archivist her voice is just as clear and vivid. She is trying to keep the memory of her family alive. She talks about living in a home with several of her relatives but then had to leave when the family broke up. She goes back to that house only to find it’s no longer there. She describes a sense of loss and displacement.

Ten years ago she lived at Covenant House on Young Street. Again, the memories and the telling of the story are quietly done and yes, full of grace. Shaista Latif has great stories to tell and I want to hear more of them.

And then there’s Sharron Matthews’ show Full Dark. Sharron Matthews is a celebrated cabaret singer in Toronto and the world. This show goes into the darker side of her life; loosing her beloved father to a terrible accident; discovering the Grimm’s Fairy Tales, finding danger on the streets when she was a young girl, having a serious problem with anxiety. It’s all there in her songs and music.

Before the show starts she comes out in her dressing gown and introduces herself to every person in that audience. She walks up the aisles of the theatre, introduces herself to every single person there; shakes their hand, gives a funny line. She’s funny, cheeky, irreverent and totally professional.

When that show starts with her three piece band playing, she goes from songs about loss of love, insecurity, darkness of the soul and coming out the other side. She has such a keen ear to her music and what works and how songs should be fitted together.

If you have never seen Sharron Matthews in person, go. She is the real deal.

The Rhubarb Festival continues at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre until Feb. 22.

Susannah Bird Continues until Feb. 21 at Rhubarb at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre.

The Archivist continues until Feb. 21.

Sharron Matthews Full Dark plays until tonight, Friday, Feb. 20.

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1 Theatre Fan March 6, 2015 at 4:27 pm

Isn’t Rhubarb not supposed to be reviewed? I thought the whole thing was that it was a safe space that was for work in progress. Why are you doing this?

Even though you don’t name them, to say that some shows are ‘forgettable’ or ‘just dumb’ seems incredibly strident and directly in opposition to the festival. Seriously, if you think some shows are ‘just dumb’, you should not review theatre. What a horrifying thing to say.