Reviews: In Case We Disappear and Smart

by Lynn on September 27, 2020

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live in backyards of private homes in Barrie, Ont.

Continuing on with The Plural of She Festival of plays in Barrie, Ont.

Details for the rest of the festival:

In Case We Disappear

Created and performed by Vanessa Smythe

A beautifully crafted, gently heartfelt production of memories and people held dear and eventually disappeared in the life of Vanessa Smythe.

Vanessa Smythe tells us that she and her younger brother (12 years younger than she is)  always had a fear of things disappearing: little gifts, people they loved  “suddenly being gone.” To keep the fear at bay Vanessa Smythe would calm her brother with silly, kooky stories etc. She has developed that idea of disappearing into a wonderful creation of a series of comedic stories, songs and poems. In so doing we also conjure up our own memories of things and loves that has quietly disappeared from our lives.

She tells of meeting a young man, a poet and falling deeply in love with his poetry, his spirit and the essence of him. She beautifully creates that instant intoxicating feeling that leaves one light-headed with euphoria. It’s that special feeling that has two people talking all night about everything, thinking that feeling will last forever, until the quick realization that it doesn’t. Even in the ending of such a beautiful ‘moment’ is said with a sweet wistfulness. At one point she says: “Love is even in good-bye.”

There is her encounter with a customer when she was a waitress. Her patience with him was impressive. The story was compelling because we weren’t sure where it was going or if it would end well. It’s to her credit that it took a twist so small and elegant it left one breathless.

 Vanessa Smythe is a sensitive, perceptive performer, a lyrical poet and a gifted writer. She has such grace and an affinity with her audience it’s as if we were breathing as one.

Ordinarily I would say that this lovely, gentle production is a reminder of what we have lost during this pandemic—going to the theatre and gathering to watch a play. But that is really not the case here since we gathered in a charming backyard to watch the vibrant, engaging Vanessa Smythe tell us stories, poems and songs about things that disappeared in her life. If that isn’t the joy of live theatre, then I don’t know what is.  This show was terrific.

In Case We Disappear played in a backyard of a private home, Sept. 25-26, 2020.

More details:


Adapted and performed by Nicky Guadagni

Script by Rosemary Sullivan and Carolyn Smart

Directed by Edmund Stapleton

With Special thanks to Layne Coleman.

Canadian poet/novelist, Elizabeth Smart (1913-1986) lived a life that was emotionally huge, fraught with incident, passionate and fiercely unconventional.

She was born into privilege in Ottawa, Ontario. She began writing poetry when she was 10 years old. As soon as she could she left Ottawa for England to get away from the restrictive privilege. She discovered the poems of George Barker and fell in love with them and him (even before she actually met him). She was single-minded about meeting him and when she did she and he began a torrid affair. Never mind that he was already married.  Matters got messy. She wrote of the relationship in “By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept,” which was described as “One of the most passionate accounts of romantic love in modern English literature.”

In one short hour Nicky Guadagni beautifully reveals what has been described as “A compelling personal exploration of the romantic legend, passionate mother and transcendent Canadian writer Elizabeth Smart.”

Guadagni adapted the script by Rosemary Sullivan and Carolyn Smart. The writing is spare, smart and vivid. At one point Elizabeth Smart is described as “Twenty-three and terrified of missing her life.” Elizabeth Smart’s world is wrapped up in that simple sentence.

Guadagni makes her entrance as Elizabeth Smart and it’s at once quirky and careless: she wears a long baggy cardigan over a skirt. She wears trainers and socks. One sock is pulled up, the other bags around her ankle. I loved that detail.

Over the course of the show Guadagni as Smart putters in one of her seven gardens (she loved gardening), arranging pots, moving driftwood  hunks from one area to another, recalling memories. Guadagni’s delivery as Smart is quiet (although microphoned—we hear every word), confiding and self-contained. When Guadagni offers commentary, we know it’s she who is giving it and not Smart because the tone and body language slips away from Smart, and just as deftly switches back when Smart fills us in with her life. Edmund Stapleton directs this beautifully.

Guadagni offers a characterization of Elizabeth Smart, so full of conviction and loyalty to Barker (even when he didn’t return it in the same way), that we are not quick to be judgemental. It’s a performance full of nuance, sensitivity and detail. It’s a life obsessed with the love of Barker, her children and the compelling need to write and Guadagni reveals it all masterfully. Most important, she makes us want to find out more.

Smart played in the backyard of a private residence Sept. 26-27, 2020 in Barrie, Ont.

 For more details:

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