Too often in this town we privilege the work of artists from other cities and dead playwrights above the writers who live and work in our community. This is a shame– If we don’t support the telling of our own stories than who will? This is why, on Thursday night, I was very excited to head off to the world premiere of Pierre Brault’s The Shadow Cutter.
I’m fortunate that I live a short walk away from the Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC), because the weather that night was nothing less than wretched. The combination of melting snow and steady rainfall had turned the sidewalks and roads into rivers of slush. Whether you were traveling by foot, bus, or car the journey was unpleasant. And yet, as I entered the theatre it was a packed house. The worst of March weather in Ottawa had not in any way deterred audiences from making the trek out to see a play and the mood of the crowd was optimistic and upbeat. Simply put, everyone was excited to see a brand new “made in Ottawa” production.
As Brian Quirt, the GCTC’s associate artistic director, mentions in his message it is clear that audiences “want to support and champion our local artists.” One can only hope that given this fact, local artists will be given even more opportunities to showcase their talents on the main stage in future.
The Shadow Cutter, a collaboration between Sleeping Dog Theatre and the GCTC, tells the story of Ottawa born magician Dai Vernon– a magician famous for fooling Harry Houdini. Brault’s script focuses on Vernon’s obsessive quest to uncover the magicians’ ultimate sleight of hand secret “the center deal” and what this pursuit costs him. The play aspires to bring the audience “into the world of magicians where secrets are currency and illusions rule supreme.”
There were a couple of moments where mirrors and lighting tricks were used quite successfully to convey this mood. I would have preferred to see even more of these techniques used to fully immerse the audience into this world.
Andy Massingham plays the role of Dai Vernon. This is a natural fit for Massingham, and he performs various tricks on stage (from cutting out silhouettes to sleight of hand card tricks) quite admirably.
It will come as no surprise to those familiar with Brault’s solo work, that he plays all the other parts in the play. It was a refreshing change to see Brault interacting with another actor on stage. Watching two actors engaging with each other is always more compelling (for me) than watching one, so I hope Brault continues in this direction.
Overall, I really enjoyed this play and would certainly recommend it. That being said, without revealing the surprise ending, I feel that this ending would have been better served if it was set up through out the play. In other words, instead of “Carl the Conjurer” at the beginning I would have preferred if that character was replaced with Vernon’s son.
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