More Summerworks reviews

by Lynn on August 13, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

Summerworks continues

Aperture—The Artist Mentoring Young ( Amy) Project

At Factory Theatre Studio, Toronto, Ont.

Co-directed by Sarah Kitz and Mumbi Tindyebwa
Created and performed by:
Clover Boxtop
Bessie Cheng
Ashley Duncan
Aiden Holden-Jones
Julia Hunter
Whitney Kyera
Caillie Presniak
Sherman Tsang

An intriguing initiative for the young women participants of the Amy Projecy in which they explore themes of gender, imagination, perceptions, sense of self, through music, dance, poetry.

Not to be ‘reviewed’ because the young women are feeling their way through via theatre.

Like There’s No Tomorrow

At Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace, Toronto, Ont.

Created by Architect Theatre
Directed by Anita Rochon
Performed by Georgina Beaty
Paula-Jean Prudat
Johnathan Seinen

This is typical gripping Architect Theatre fare. It’s docudrama investigating questions and situations that affect all of us. In 2012 and 2013 the company travelled to Northern BC to interview people who lived on the route of the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. There was a study done by the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel to suggest that due diligence was done. Only one question was asked: “Do you think that Canadians will be better off with the Pipeline than without? “ It doesn’t leave much room for other questions such as how will the environment, air, land, water, fish, wild-life, people be affected? What about possible disasters? What will happen then?

While the review panel did not bother themselves with such questions, Architect Theatre did when it talked to many people along the route. The main speaker is a First Nations woman who talked to the group for few hours. Her wisdom forms the basis of the piece.

The three performers, pose questions, provide answers and facts via over head screen projections.

We are told that the review panel interviewed more than 1000 people on the issue yet we are not given an idea of that group how many thought the pipeline would be good. It’s not the first time big business ignored the will of the people and did what they wanted to do for greedy-guts reasons.

Georgina Beaty, Paula-Jean Prudat and Jonathan Seinen provide thoughtful comments in calm, cool performances thus underlining the dramatic implications of the work. Anger and rage only stops people from listening. These three get the audience to listen intently.

The piece needs to be fleshed out—it seemed to stop rather than conclude. And while we are mainly listening to the recorded voice of the first nations woman, and the three performers do not do much that is dramatic, what the piece says is so important. Theatre as the bringer of the truth about bad news. Now to flesh it out; make is seem more a play and less a workshop, and tighten what’s there.

The Marquise of O—(a tabloid story for hypocritical times)

At the Factory Theatre Mainspace, Toronto, Ont.

Based on a short story by Heinrich von Kleist
Adapted and directed by Lauren Gillis and Ted Weizel.
Starring: Kaleb Alexander
Rong Fu
Tyler Hagemann
Richard Partington
G. Kyle Shields
Eve Wylden

A marquise who is a widow finds herself pregnant and she has no idea how that happened. She knows how it’s done—she has children from her first marriage—but not how this particular pregnancy happened. There was that recent time when it looked like she would be attached by a bunch of fighting Russians but a dashing Russian Count saved her. She fainted from all the excitement and when she came to he was gone. Several months later she finds herself pregnant. She puts an ad in the paper indicating her mysterious plight and if the father would come forward she’d like to marry him.

While ‘rape’ is not actually mentioned, and while the Count does come forward and says he loves the Marquise, matters do not run smoothly.

Heinrich von Kleist wrote this novella in the 1800s. Lauren Gillis and Ted Weizel adapted this with large references to the philosophy of Kant and the theories on rape and cats by Schrödinger. Gillis and Weizel also direct this using video images of the cast in formal costumes and white faced makeup projected on the front of the stage as they come onto the stage and then disappear behind it back into the video. Set pieces are rotated from the world of the play to the backstage world of theatre.

It’s all so very self-absorbed in its pretensions to cleverness, resulting in an interesting story being turned into an adaptation and production that is esoteric drivel.

Deceitful Above All Things

At the Factory Theatre, Mainspace, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Genevieve Adam
Directed by Erin Brandenburg
Starring: Genevieve Adam
Imogen Grace
Sarah Wilson
John Fitzgerald Jay
Joelle Peters
Brian Bisson
Garret C. Smith

Playwright/actress Genevieve Adam had been living abroad for years in milder weather when she returned home to Canada. During an ice-storm. And a 48 hour power outage. She wondered how the first European settlers to Canada coped with the weather and hard ships. What made them leave their lands? What made them stick it out in such harsh conditions? Deceitful Above All Things was born.

Anne De Beauney comes to Quebec looking for a husband, as do many women. She bides her time but the man she falls in love with is not available. He’s the local priest. He decides to move away. She follows him. She also needs to get married quickly. She’s pregnant. She befriends another woman who falls in love with a traveling man. There is trouble with the natives in the area. Through it all the steely spine of the persevering women and brave men come to the fore. We see was sturdy stock these pioneers are.

Genevieve Adam knows how to tell a story with economy and spareness. She draws vivid characters, each quirky in their own way and totally believable. There is humour and drama, both compelling. Erin Brandenburg’s direction illustrates both the humour and the grip of the story-telling. It’s a good production and worth a ticket.

Return Home

At the Theatre Centre, Toronto, Ont.

Created by the Return Home Collective
Directed by Majdi Bou Matar and Diane Roberts
Performed by: Dima Alansari,
Emilie Monnet
Carlos Rivera
Live music by Heather Majaury

Raven “is an Indiginous Mixteco who tells us that this is the story of two women. Leilah and Marie. Leilah “is an indigenous Palestinian woman born in exile” who eventually moved to Canada. She champions the millions Palestinians who were displaced from their homeland when Israel was created in 1948, She continues her lament and anger over the years as the number grew to 7 million. Marie “is an indigenous Anishinaabe woman from Quebec.”

At first the two women are at odds, challenging the other to see who has suffered the most from their exiles and yearning for their land to be returned to them. Marie longs for the unpolluted lands, air and water of her past to be restored from the destructive clutches of the people who stole the land in the first place. I guess we read “white” in this incidence. Leilah of course wants the land of the displaced 7 million to be returned to them.

Eventually through dialogue, dance, traditional drumming, chanting and song the women are joined in their individual protests. Marie offers to teach Leilah a song to aid in her cause.

Both want what they consider to be better lives wishing to return home. Leilah says she came to Canada at considerable expense seeking a better life. The edge in her voice suggests she has been disappointed. She also espouses love as a way forward. This sounds rather disingenuous since almost every line she utters is bitter and angry.

As we sit watching what seems like a diatribe at times, on land that we are told has been stolen, in a country that Leilah resents because the government sides with Israel, I note to my colleague beside me that we sure do have a lot to feel guilty about.

I saw this because Majdi Bou Matar co-directed it—he’s a wonderful director. It’s also co-directed by Diane Roberts, a respected theatre maker. This is not their best work. I wondered why too much business was directed upstage and not front and centre downstage, while important dialogue was given but was drowned out by the supporting drumming. It also seems less a play or even a performance piece and more a tirade or at least a chance to vent about perceived injustices that have consumed their lives.

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