Wednesday, January 27, 2016


World Stage 2016 at Harbourfront has begun but the big kick-off party, the World Stage Mirror Ball is next Saturday 


 Next Tuesday, World Stage and BUDDIES are holding a special panel called Subculture Futures.

Presented by Harbourfront Centre's World Stage and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Tuesday, January 26 at 7pm at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

Join World Stage Scholars-in-Residence Matthew Sergi and Juila Fawcett along with Mother Trouble Nuance and Mother Tko Monroe for an open-ended forum discussion on Subculture Futures, in which your questions and comments will drive our conversation. Since subcultures—ball culture included—draw their passion and style from a history of being marginal, what does it mean to bring the ballroom scene onto a mainstream venue like World Stage or Buddies? Where has ball culture been so far; how has it changed in prior partnerships with mainstream institutions (from Madonna’s co-opting to the pop rebranding of ballroom lingo on RuPaul’s Drag Race)? In an arts community in which small-scale innovators are becoming dependent on institutional grants, support, and publicity in order to survive at all, how can ball culture sustainably continue without mainstream partnerships—or, if it enters into institutional partnerships, how can it maintain its realness?

Presented by 
Harbourfront Centre's World Stage
Saturday, January 30 at 8pm 
at Harbourfront Centre Theatre

Come prepared to strut!  The World Stage Mirror Ball celebrates the 2016 season of World Stage with a lively performance party in the spirit of more: more artistry, more theatrics, and more mirrors!  The highlight of the ball is the competitive fashion show with judging for multiple categories including dance performance, runway strutting and sexiest siren. Inspired by the infinite reflection in the disco ball, come dressed in your shiniest, most dazzling costume and let the fun amplify endlessly into the night. With 10 runway categories, a make-up station and a DJ spinning dance floor hits all evening long, the Mirror Ball is a collision of worlds, a festive night celebrating all things performance.  ONLY $10.

The Cherry Orchard's Llyandra Jones - The Chekhov Colective

Clayton Gray   
Llyandra is an actor, director, and theatre creator based in Toronto. She is a graduate of the University of Windsor’s BFA Acting program, and has trained with various professional theatre companies and acting programs including the SITI Company based in New York, The International Michael Chekhov Association, and the summer program at the Moscow Art Theatre School. In 2014, she played Masha in The Chekhov Collective’s production of The Seagull. Llyandra writes and performs original sketch comedy with her group LaughDance, which you can see this summer in various performances around Toronto.


Llyandra Jones and The Chekhov Collective's production of The Cherry Orchard 
Llyandra Jones, a queer identified multi-disciplinary artist, whose work embraces everything from elaborate installations in her own home to a comedy troupe (Laugh Dance) specializing in political musical sketch comedy, is currently taking on the role of Varya in The Chekhov Collective’s production of The Cherry Orchard. The hardworking, realistic, and romantically dysfunctional role of Varya may be well suited to a performer/actor who sees the complex ways in which queerness can indirectly inform any given identity during a time when queer was, decidedly, not in the forefront of the popular social imaginary. And given the current state of homophobia in Russia, and worldwide, an expansive notion of queerness is a timely and complex theatrical matter. 

But the current production, opening at the Canstage Berkeley Street Theatre on January 29th, is by no means a primarily ‘queer’ enterprise - and yet one might also suggest that, as Sondheim flirts with in A Little Night Music, “Isn’t it rich? Isn’t it queer?” - hinting at the universal queerness that is at times more social than sexual, more universal than specific, more madcap than magical. 

Claiming queer as an inclusive term for anyone who strays from the traditional social/sexual path can be maddening, to say the least, but it can also come in handy when frustration prevails and run on sentences refuse to quickly get to the heart of the matter.

In a nutshell, The Cherry Orchard is about real estate and rich people – rich people challenged by dwindling bank accounts and floundering in a milieu of social unrest, imminent revolution, and sublime family dysfunction. As Varya Llyandra Jones has the task of bringing the bedrock of a broken family back together long enough to pack up and send everyone off on their not so merry way into uncertain futures. 

Jones feels that her feminist leanings are as significant as her queerness as she approaches the part of a woman who may very well see a life in a convent as a dream, a fantasy, an escape, from the gross time of being trapped on a big failing, forested estate at the turn of the century (early nineteen hundreds). Women had little to no legal agency at the time, thereby rendering Varya’s fantasies, her available modes of escape, very limited. Jones sites her own desires to travel and make art as her way of realizing personal dreams and fantasies, and yet knows that she must not look at Varya’s  seemingly less liberating dreams as oppressive if she is to create a believable and refreshing take on the role. Varya had dreams too, but they - like all dreams - were framed, challenged, and restricted by the times.

Varya’s own special brand of de-historicized queerness, at a time when queerness may not have existed – certainly not in the fragmented all encompassing way that it does now, promises to infuse the upcoming production of The Cherry Orchard with new life that, as Llyandra Jones suggests, will make “connections to our lives today” and reveal the mundane, engaging, banal, entertaining, and heartbreaking qualities that this classic comedy has been foretelling for over a century. Yes, as Chekhoc himself exclaimed, The Cherry Orchard is a comedy, a very social one. Director Dimitri Zhikofsky Russian origins promise to shine through and expose the comedic at the heart of the dramati. The hilarious core of fabulous quotes from Chekhov exist on a complex plane from the ridiculous to the sublime - such as “a hard life, full of secrets, but happy” – or my all time favourite laugh line from the annals of Chekhovian quips “I am in mourning for my life.”

Although the production is period based, it plays with time and history in a way that Jones refers to as anachronism, uncertainty, illusion and theatricality – all put in place by the director in order to create a fluid historical framework that will resonate with contemporary audiences attuned to the catastrophic historicity we are currently consumed by, tra la …
The modern translation, culled from a variety of translations, has been adapyed byDimitri Zhukofsky and actor/producer Rena Polley. Working with the cast in a collective setting, the primary script creators encouraged the actors to re-phrase particular lines to suit their vision of the character. Informed by the work of actor trainer Michael Chekhov  (Anton Chekhov’s grandson) the company utilizes the idea of creating both inner and outer imaginations for their character. Through physical exercise actors are required to tap into the depth of their creative imaginations, rather than re-enacting emotion through their own memory of an actual experience they have encountered. This is confusingly contrary to Stanislavki’s notion of the ‘Method’ and its American version, whereby actors actually move into the depth of the role as though they were actually experiencing the character’s life moments. Michael Chekhov gave artist’s the option of moving away from this intense frequently unattainable objective by creating forms and exercises that liberate the imagination and move it into areas of memory and physical intensity onstage. In rehearsal these techniques can manifest themselves through exercising both the body and the imagination into expressive theatricalized forms. For example, two actors in an imaginary tug of war, where the rope may not exist, but the physical intensity is performed, thereby instilling in the individual a memory of that intensity and giving them potential bodily gesture to take onstage when they are in an emotional tug of war with another character. What a fun (aka exhausting) day at rehearsal that would be!

Don’t miss the upcoming production of The Cherry Orchard. On the heels of the Chekhov Collective’s acclaimed version of The Seagull, it is sure to be a fresh look at an old comedy about rich people becoming stale, stifled, and full of the dregs of crumbling pseudo aristocratic real estate, land development, and the beauty and disgrace of a blossoming cherry orchard where timeshare villas and middle class cabins could so comfortably reside, replenish, and reduce, tra la…

 the ensemble



Peggy Baker's Phase Space

Peggy Baker's
Phase Space, the current program of dance - concept and choreography by Peggy Baker - running at the Betty Oliphant Theatre until January 31st - is a full, rich evening comprised of an intricately woven  quartet of work culled in a unique and original manner from the memory of Baker’s acclaimed repertoire – and the corporeal memories/impressions she has encouraged the dancers to craft from the depth of their own remembered dance histories.
The four works that make up Phase-Space are remembered dances that didn’t yet exist. When we set off, I assigned each dancer the task of calling up the moments, gestures, actions and phrases from their repertoire with me that live most vividly and deeply in their body. These excavated fragments provided the seeds for dreamscape memory dances that reveal impulses, images and oblique storylines that emerged from under the surface of the steps.

                                    Peggy Baker, program notes
Bracketed and punctuated by powerful and evocative live music, created for each performance by Berlin/Toronto based composer John Kameel Farah, the soundscape is a complex arrangement of gorgeous sound, noise, dissonance, and rapturous melodic substance that appears and disappears throughout with incredible nuance framed by at once excitable and soothing aplomb. Situated on a raised platform high above the dancers, the composer/musician’s presence looms powerfully and subtly and becomes an integral visual and aural presence throughout. Sections between each piece provide an array of seemingly found sounds woven into the music that move seamlessly from everyday clattering to beautiful noise – frequently finishing with rhythmic versions of all that came before.
The solos and ensembles marking the evening, graced by a beautifully nuanced duet mid program, all bear a delicate relationship to the dancers forms as they move closely, in and out of each others limbs - and throughout the playing space - in breathtaking physical solidarity with each other, themselves, and the music that surrounds them – pushing them forward into a plethora of athleticized challenge and beauty throughout.

Fides Kruker’s vocalography works in gorgeous unison with the live music, emanating through rhythmic sound and creating an incredible syncopation with every gestural moment that the dancer evokes vocally and physically. At times the voices of the dancers become so disembodied through a paradoxically broken seamlessness of the physically demanding and the ethereally audible tones that it is simultaneously comforting, enthralling, and disquieting to discover where precisely these tones are coming from – connecting eloquently to the surreal, visual art element that sculpts the final intense solo moments of the evening with invigoratingly shaped lighting that commands and liberates the dancing body.

The final corporeal excitement of the evening has a single dancer take the stage, among exquisitely sculpted lighting effects by Marc Parent, emanating from and surrounding a blank canvas, as she moves among the shadows and glaring, sharply defined blocks of light, becoming part and parcel of the geometric abstracted patterns and sounds that the immersive theatricalized experience becomes enmeshed within. 

This culmination of an evening of powerful movement and at times beautifully dissonant work brings all of the elements together into a sublime form of dance theatre, leaving the spectator satisfied and enlivened by an overall program - yet craving more of those final movements that begin with a torn canvas tabula rasa and develop into a fully embodied play of light, limb, music, and relentless, seemingly effortless gestural excellence.    

Phase Space, at the Betty Oliphant Theatre 
(404 Jarvis Street)

January 22-24

 January 27-31, 8:30 pm

Thursday, January 21, 2016


 About the Show *
(for further info see preview in previous BATEMAN REVIEWS blog post)

Germinal features individuals who seethe stage as an empty and fruitful space where everything is in the making. Within this space, efforts will be made to create a system or, in more candid terms, one might say a world.

As we watch it unfold the actors take it as an opportunity to construct and deconstruct the history of science, technology and societal structures in an experimental way, but always with the greatest care and good grace. Remaking everything, but without any moralistic intention.

In Germinal we are indeed reinventing the wheel, but in doing so we are questioning almost everything and putting it on trial, from the laws of physics to the foundations of social interaction. And this is done within the relatively narrow context of an empty performance stage.

If we had the opportunity to start from scratch, even in a space of 8 metres by 10 metres, how would we do it?

* FROM THE PROGRAM NOTES FOR Germinal, Harborfront Centre, World Stage

“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.” John Berger, Ways of Seeing

"Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire." Roland Barthes

Seeing and knowing, language and desire, speaking from the tips of our fingers, and the knowledge of something not quite fitting what we see and imagine it to be, are all modes of genuine and engaging inquiry that the current production of Germinal at Harborfront Centre’s World Stage embodies in a wonderful and witty, clever and complex manner. As I watched I was reminded of walking through my neighbourhood – on the edge of Dundas Square – as it moves, on any given day, from a blaringly serene asphalt meeting place to a swarm of stultifyingly frenzied activity. It is a daily challenge navigating the mind blowing/numbing, sensation-throbbing experience of humans and all their accoutrement as they scramble among intersecting pedestrian crossings, gigantic screens pulsing with images and information, and cell phones that have taken the place of eyes and ears that actually notice the real life surrounding them. But that’s just my single subjective take on being alive in a simultaneously deadening, enlivening and explosive social miasma. Germinal takes a lighter look at the chaos of creating a world of sight and sound – but it is a lightness sprinkled generously with very dark and thought provoking overtones.    
What begins as a bare stage with relative silence gracing the space becomes…well, it is hard to describe Germinal without giving something crucial away about the gradual and sublime journey one is taken on during this ninety minute tour de force featuring four performers and a cacophony of …oops, another potential spoiler alert.

In a ntushell, Germinal explores language, silence, technology, music and a plethora of unidentifiable social nuance in an elegant at times wildly celebratory manner – moving as gradually from the blank slate of the beginning to a kind of apocalyptic playground by the end.

Surtitles mix with visual and language based projections that turn the overall experience into a fabulous exercise in navigating the mechanics of the contemporary stage as it becomes an integral part of a quartet of gifted bodies that traverse the boundaries of  dialogue, music, technology and finding one’s way in a world at once bound, gagged, liberated, set free, and damned by language and technology and their increasingly subservient, all too human counterparts.

As a kind of post-modern Waiting for Godot, Germinal pulls out all the existentialist stops during an hour and a half of deadly serious fun that goes nowhere and everywhere all at the same time (like this review!?) The audience laughter, coming in on opening night like a slow tide that built toward outright guffaw, is as gradual and as heartfelt as the ways in which the performers reach out to each other with words and sounds as they discover a new way of enacting old ways of being, seeming, and believing.

Germinal promises to make you seem to be believing in the power of performance and the power of communal effort in a simple, complex, and utterly entertaining and enlightening way.