Friday, September 28, 2018

WRECK WEE EM

WRECK WEE EM
PHOTOS BY ANDY CARROLL

How do you run from what is inside of your head?
Alice in Wonderland*

* part of program note by Linda Kash

______________________________________________________________________

Director Linda Kash has taken what is inside Em Glasspool’s head and allowed a selection of memories and images  (gathered together, written & memorized by Glasspool) to inhabit a performance space with breakneck physicality and vocal diversity that is both hilarious and heartbreaking. The current full production (after a successful workshop production last spring) fills a third of Evans Contemporary and integrates itself into the blank white rectangular room with a simple and extremely functional set by Gabe Robinson. Robinson’s multi-levelled environment creates a simultaneous openness and containment through the use of several connected all black spaces that throw the performing body into sharp focus. The playing area becomes a classic example of the power of contrasting colour and functional shapes that the performer can rely upon as they traverse the stage and find diverse physical phrasing for each narrative act.


There are moments when the performer’s expertise at traversing and suddenly lying upon various expanses of the stage enhance the intensity of the narrative, keeping audience members engaged through a skillful combination of emotional courage and physical agility.
Kash’s  dual role as director and voiceover for various subconscious characters ranges from cartoon like Big Boy utterances to a well crafted Sigmund Freud persona - all cleverly punctuated by a personified onstage lamp. Esther Vincent’s lighting occupies both small and broad strokes that beautifully support the overall sense of inhabiting a playing space fully. Lighting complements expressions of intimate narrative and opens up as these moments ultimately reach outward toward a larger sense of the issues at hand. Original compositions, mixed with a touch of Hank Williams, composed, sung and self-accompanied by Glasspool, add a wonderful contrast to the  sixty-five minute spoken monologue.
The beautiful and poignant song Fallen Bird creates a perfect denouement as the narrative moves toward a climactic apology so crucial to ongoing recovery from addiction and mental health trauma. Followed by another original song, after a section of empowered lament, Glasspool’s creation, Resist the Resistance, simply and concisely tells a musical story about just how difficult the day to day process of keeping on track can be. Earlier in the show the original story/song Markdale/Glenelg Township becomes a crucial remembrance of things past that continue to inform the present. This sung tale evokes a sense of how specific incidents early in life can take hold, possessing both bitter humour and familial chaos that follows the subject throughout his life. 

Requiem: An act or token of remembrance.I will never forget the experience of severe psychosis. I will never forget daily hopeless deranged addiction. I will never forget friends no longer in this living plain. This is a requiem - an act of remembrance - of events in my life, and of people that have touched my life.

Playwright Em Glasspool (program note)

As a self-styled requiem filled with a comedy and pathos that is injected with Glasspool’s sense of playful language, the title and many of the written lines employ rhyming and puns that sustain the intensity with a lightness and a power that co-exist with very effective performative intent. As Kash says in her director’s note, “This is not an easy story. Takes courage to tell. It’s been a great privilege to be on the journey and I hope its telling leads to good things. Maybe even great things.”
Ultimately the great things emerging from the final product of this solo performance become a form of ongoing catharsis and recovery for spectator and performer alike. Wreck Wee Em allows the audience to witness the pain - tinged with complex, good humoured momentum - that has taken hold of a single artist and allowed him to tell a story replete with childhood trauma, the creativity that a strong adult turns into a career, and the onset of mental health issues that continue to test the limits of personal struggles and successes. Watching Glasspool re-enact this and punctuate it with heartfelt sentiment regarding all of the characters inhabiting his mind and body evokes a roller coaster of diverse emotion. It is the kind of ‘entertainment’ that one is hard put to classify as, in fact, entertainment. It does succeed thoroughly on this level through a painful-cum-joyful and empowering sense of the artist’s creative spirit and force - “I am at my best and most well when creating theatre.” (Glasspool, program note) As a collective audience we are at our best and most well when we can see the onstage representation of personal struggle as the product of an empowered theatre act - like the many simple yet evocative utterances from Alice in Wonderland as a host of creatures, both real and fantasy-ridden, represent a mind & body trying to not run away from what is in their head. Pigs, pirates, and larger than life ‘Big Boys’ render Wreck Wee Em a strong-willed testament to the potency of art as a way of moving through, toward, and in, and out, of mental and physical turmoil. A varied and difficult road to ongoing recovery…

“Where should I go?” Alice

“That depends on where you want to end up.”  The Cheshire Cat  

(DIRECTOR’S PROGRAM NOTE)

_________________________

WRECK WEE EM 
AT EVANS CONTEMPORARY 
UNTIL SEPT 30 
- 2PM ON SEPT 30, 

8PM ALL OTHER PERFORMANCES -

Monday, September 24, 2018

GERTRUDE AND ALICE (INTERVIEW WITH DESIGNER SHERRI HAY)

Thursday, August 23, 2018

THE LAST WEEKEND OF THE SUMMER - BOOK REVIEW



“What are men to rocks and mountains."   Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen


Cottage country, in Ontarian terms, has become a cross between a Stephen King novel and a daytime soap opera. Soap opera characters often retreat to the lake laden countryside in order to escape from problems that ultimately come to a head in a frequently familial fashion, dredging up old quarrels and unearthing traumatic secrets. Peter Murphy’s engrossing take on a family in the throes of nostalgic grudge-bearing memories lies somewhere between the psychological thriller aspects of King’s world and the romantic soapy proportions of say, The Young and the Restless - moving into Austen’esque ramifications on a broad literary scale.


Murphy’s characters certainly range from quite young to mid-middle and well within quite old verging on finale. But they all reside steadfastly, with attractive physical and emotional variations, within the eternally restless domain that close relations often inhabit on a daily basis. The heterocentricity of this realm is broken nicely in a provocative intersectional manner as one family member and their new partner confront eternal family issues as well as their own neophyte phobias regarding relationships evolving within degrees of welcoming and unwelcoming milieus. No one ever quite reaches the proportions of a Margaret Atwood’ian ‘Wilderness Tips’ form of surreal realism, but they wander close - often veering toward a somewhat arresting collision with taboo and dubious titillation.


An absent patriarch, with devastating war stories in tow, looms over the proceedings and careens, through memory and reminiscence, in and out of the narrative through conversational and descriptive prose sections. This provides a strong psychological base for the variety of problems each family member encounters. The somewhat unwelcome return of a present/absentee patriarch creates the central suspense element of the overall story as all else surrounds and circles him. Murphy deftly handles this cottage carousel of multi-narrative within a single tale.


At the centre of the cast sits Gloria - in all her complicated matriarchal glory. Gathering her family together quickly becomes a puzzle to be gradually solved as the page turning saga unfolds. Why are we here? Who is joining us? Why did ‘he’ get invited? It begins as a bit of a battle of the sexes until one discovers that the battle may have already been fought and the spoils - both emotional and physical, with hints of economic outburst - have yet to be negotiated and distributed.


Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of this 218 page journey, through a land of lakes and latent comeuppance, is the way in which Murphy juggles the minds of men and women and finds a curious and satisfying balance between the ‘sins’ of the male creature and the ways in which the females involved behave in response to their ‘manly’ cohorts - simultaneously taking responsibility for, and thwarting, complicity. One section, in a simple yet revealing manner, shows the differences, the similarities, the contradictions and the intersections that bring people together and drive them apart in surprisingly semi-equitable yet saddening, bittersweet ways -

He had come back, all right, and he had apologized, but he was the one who got to be gracious about it. He had asked for forgiveness for his part in all that had gone wrong and never once alluded to her transgressions. She had wanted to talk about them - she wanted to hear him say that he forgave her for all of that, but that was never going to happen now. And she knew why: in all the time they had been together, she had never once allowed him to reproach her. When he had tried, she had rushed headlong into a frenzy of self-condemnation, twisting everything he said into sharp barbs that she would flagellate herself with.


No one gets off easily in ‘The Last Weekend of the Summer.' But they all get to partake in this humid Ontarian ritual that includes barbecues, boat rides, maternal wisdom, and a myriad of escapades that the author organizes in an extremely engaging and moving way.


Murphy’s style takes anyone who has experienced the drama, the comedy, the romance, and the heartbreak of a weekend in the country, back to the roots of a cottage mentality and an emotional landscape that possess a kind of Jane Austen grandeur in a contemporary setting. His writing forgoes the lengthy metaphoric nodes of masculinity concealed in Austen’s famous passage,1 but makes up for it with direct conversational confrontation and understandable volatility in his characterizations.


When Elizabeth, in Pride and Prejudice, travels to the lake district of her own homeland and exclaims, “What are men to rocks and mountains” she exposes the simultaneous repulsion and attraction to all that is monumental in nature and emotion - lamenting her own struggle with the entwined socio-economic relationships of the late 1700’s - revolution and land distribution in the background of a larger European picture. The early machinations of the first two decades of the 21st century make for a subtle background as The Last Weekend of the Summer takes timeless themes and creates a detailed set of family relationships - crafting them into the complex interactive stories that both separate and keep close relations together.


Murphys’ other novels, including Lagan Love and Wandering In Exile, embrace a fascination for discontent within familial and romantic realms, revealing a broad scope of imagination ranging from Irish mythology and politics, to Canadian immigrant experience as it encounters old world religion and socio-political strain within international and provincial regions. The Last Weekend of the Summer embraces a simpler structure as it brings a cast of characters together within a single commodified pastoral setting, yet moves their associations outward toward a vast urban context.


Ultimately a fine end of summer read - moving into fall - at times leisurely, at times thought provoking journey that might be lavishly pored over on a dock, in a Muskoka chair (Adirondack

page2image29896
for other regionally named sitting devices of similar structural import - http://www.ournorthernhomestead.com/muskoka-vs-adirondack/) - or in a tethered canoe with cans of beer, or thermoses of whiskey sours, bouncing in a cooler as one contemplates one’s own place within the cottage laden universe.

David Bateman - Toronto, August 2018 


___________________________________________________________

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen - chapter IV volume 2 - Chapter 27 -
“...what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend! And when we do return, it shall not be like other travellers, without being able to give one accurate idea of any thing. We will know where we have gone -- we will recollect what we have seen. Lakes, mountains, and rivers shall not be jumbled together in our imaginations; nor, when we attempt to describe any particular scene, will we begin quarrelling about its relative situation. Let our first effusions be less insupportable than those of the generality of travellers...’'

Friday, July 13, 2018

BOY WONDERS AND 'GIRLS' GLAMOUR

BOY WONDERS 
& 

'GIRLS' GLAMOUR


BOY WONDERS
A fine ensemble cast of teenaged thespians makes this imaginative script a fun fast paced romp through the psyches of behind the scenes unsung comic book heroes. A standout performance, in the midst of a delightful
and talented cast, comes from Brad Brackenridge as the older semi-super hero assistant. His layered performance, filled with detailed physicality and expression, creates a solid foundation for his cohorts to play off of from beginning to end. With a finely tuned comic presence,
laced with elements of Jack Nicholson at his charismatic best, his presence is created by a playwright who strategically places a mature character at the centre of fledgling young souls moving through the same bittersweet trap their super hero status affords them. And the costumes are adorable!!!

THE DING DONG GIRLS
 A wonderful spacey drag concoction. The Ding Dong girls has a lovely breakneck sense of drag cracking through the complex of glitzy glass sequinned ceilings of entertainment, performance art, and plain downright campy fun - as it finds highlights in songs that speak metaphorically of cracks in the sky where all that is fabulous can break through - alongside politicized drag infused performance pieces that campily portray other aspects of drag persona. 

A thrilling and promising beginning for a show that needs a post finrge full length production to give it the after life it so richly deserves, Wonderful songs, amazing performances, and a dialogue between divas that holds the potential for a great big splashy musical!!!

Company
MoGo Co.
Playwright/Creator
Christopher Richards and Gordon Bowness
Runtime
50m
Facebook promo
The Ding Dong Girls, the hilarious drag musical by Dora-winner Christopher Richards (Molly Wood) and author Gordon Bowness, is the mostly untrue legend of a cross-dressing misfit who gathers around him four other young gay men to form a madcap, politically-motivated drag troupe in early 1990s Toronto. The five friends hurtle off on a roller-coaster ride of self-delusion to create a magical world of power, beauty and sisterhood. This magical world stands in stark contrast to their gloomy reality. Will glamour win out?
____________________________________

ONE LEFT HOUR: 

THE LIFE AND WORK OF DANIIL KHARMS 


by Good Old Neon 

Randolph Theatre 

July 11 (5:15pm) 
July 12 (noon) 
July 13 (11pm) 
July 14 (5:15pm)




photos of the cast by Nicholas Porteous

Good Old Neons One Left Hour, what one might call a celebratory anti-celebration of an absurdist poet's tortured work, is a splendid tour de force that has the ensemble portraying and performing elements of Daniil Kharms work, persona, and philosophy in a fast paced, beautifully rhythmic hodgepodge of surreal delight and meditation. 

Kharms oeuvre was certainly not about the lighter aspects of the social milieu he inhabited and rebelled against, and One Left Hour represents this with the kind of commitment and respect absurdism demands in order to make the seeming chaos that underlies the action remain both chaotic and clearsighted throughout.

His prison meditation, both spare in tone and lush in meditative sentiment (image below) exemplifies his dedication to both producing intense work and abandoning it when the situation demands. Good Old Neon has taken these qualities and infused their production with moments of audience confrontation and the support of a vocal stage management and tech crew that break all four walls throughout the piece, enteriaining with high spirited physicality, haunting melancholy puppetry, and an exuberance and commitment to the project that fills every moment. The result is a bizarre, beautiful, puzzling, and provocative journey through the work of a bizarre, beautiful and puzzling artist who relentlessly made his art through despite great personal hardship.The current fringe production, honouring his artistic output, is a fine testament to the endurance of even the most non traditional or theatrical aesthetics.

(An Unsuccessful Show)
included in the programme of One Left Hour


Tuesday, June 26, 2018




FOR A LIST OF THE DORA WINNERS SEE

https://www.broadwayworld.com/toronto/article/Toronto-Theatre-Celebrated-at-the-2019-Dora-Awards-Winners-Announced-20180625

DORA HOST ASTRID VAN WIEREN, CURRENTLY APPEARING ON BROADWAY IN THE CANADIAN SMASH HIT 
COME FROM AWAY


SOME HIGHLIGHTS 

KIINALIK; THESE SHARP TOOLS

BUDDIES IN BAD TIMES THEATRE

OUTSTANDING NEW PLAY & OUTSTANDING SOUND DESIGN/COMPOSITION  
GENERAL THEATRE DIVISION
Evalyn Parry and
Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory
Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille co-production
Evalyn Parry and Cris Derksen
page3image105720 page3image106144
Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille co-production



_____________________________

JERUSALEM 

OUTSIDE THE MARCH 
& COMPANY

KIM COATES AND THE CAST OF JERUSALEM

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION

Jerusalem
An Outside the March and Company Theatre production, in association with Starvox Entertainment



OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE (MALE)

Kim Coates
Jerusalem
An Outside the March and Company Theatre production, in association with Starvox Entertainment

SCENIC DESIGN
Nick Blais
page3image38488
Jerusalem
An Outside the March and Company Theatre production, in association with Starvox Entertainment

LIGHTING DESIGN
André du Toit
Jerusalem
An Outside the March and Company Theatre production, in association with Starvox Entertainment

OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE
The Ensemble: Jason Cadieux, Nicholas Campbell, Brenna Coates, Shakura Dickson, Diana Donnelly, Peter Fernandes, Christo Graham, Daniel Kash, Evan Kearns, David Kohlsmith, Katelyn McCulloch, Philip Riccio, Kieran Sequoia, Michael Spencer-Davis
Jerusalem
An Outside the March and Company Theatre production, in association with Starvox Entertainment

DIRECTION
Mitchell Cushman
Jerusalem
An Outside the March and Company Theatre production, in association with Starvox Entertainment