Monthly Archives: February 2012

Undercurrents So Far

The Undercurrents festival is well underway at the Great Canadian Theatre Company and this weekend I was finally able to get out and see some shows.  The first, was the Friday Feb. 10th opening of,  Falling Open by Luna Allison.   

In Falling Open, Allison has taken on a very difficult subject, one family’s experience with sexual abuse,  skilfully and with appropriate sensitivity. The script is sharp and hard-hitting while avoiding the typical clichés of victimization.  While certainly strong in places, on opening night, her performance was slightly uneven and her voice was a little quiet. This was compounded by the fact that she had to compete with the whir of the fan of a projector used for the audio-visual elements.  I have mixed feelings about the audio-visual elements as a whole, there were instances where they worked and served the narrative, but in others they were a bit of distraction.  Despite these technical failings, Falling Open is still very much worth seeing because of the strength of Allison’s script. I recommend it!

Saturday February 11, I attended two shows. First, was Highway 63: The Fort Mac Show by Architect Theatre (a resident company of Theatre Passe Muraille.) This is an ambitious project that deals with the themes of environmental degradation/reclamation all wrapped up in a love story. The piece is a blend of fiction and verbatim theatre (dialogue taken from interviews with people in the community.)  I think this kind of theatre works best when the stories of the community interviewed are brought to the forefront. In the case of this production, the verbatim component is merely used by the artists as a backdrop for their own fictional narrative. I feel that is a missed opportunity.  That being said, both Georgina Beaty and Brendan Mcmurty-Howlett put in very strong performances.

The second half of my theatrical double feature was Live From the Belly of the Whale by Ottawa’s Mi Casa. This show was sold out early and it’s easy to see why.  Emily Pearlman and Nick Di Gaetano are both charismatic performers. They make a great team with Pearlman providing clever dialogue and Di Gaetano creating the music. It’s a great combination and both are compelling to watch as they tell this fantastical story about the relationship between a brother and sister (complete with journeys to the ocean and to the moon).  It also features exceptional set and props design by John Doucet. The only drawback to the performance was the fact that the keyboard occasionally overwhelmed the singing voices of the actors. Live From the Belly of the Whale finished it’s run last night, but I’m hoping Mi Casa will release the soundtrack for purchase. It’s a winner!

So far it’s been a great festival. I hope you get a chance to go out and see a show before it ends! By the way, a special feature of this festival is you can bring your drink with you into the theatre space. If you see Weetube 5400 you can also get free popcorn and cookies. How about that for an incentive?

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The Two shows I’m Most Looking Forward to At Undercurrents

Last year, the Undercurrents festival launched at the GCTC and was one of the theatrical highlights of the year. The festival’s aim is to promote independent boundary pushing theatre or “theatre below the main stream.”  Last year’s line up was terrific and I saw every show.  Undercurrents 2012, opened yesterday and I’m once again looking forward to seeing more independent theatre!

In fact, I’m on record, and have been quoted in marketing material, saying this about last year’s festival:

I hope this festival becomes a regular feature of the Ottawa theatre scene and that the GCTC will sponsor even more independent theatre productions in the future.” 

As a strong supporter of this festival, I thought I would take some time to tell you about two of the shows I am particularly looking forward to this year. I think I would be remiss if I also didn’t tell you about the one show I feel should not have been included this year and why, but I will save that for another blog post.

Here are two recommendations!:

At the 2011 Ottawa Fringe Festival, Luna Allison premiered Falling Open in a very original venue (her bedroom.) Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to catch this one at Fringe. Her home was a little off the beaten path and, to be completely honest, the play’s subject matter (one family’s experience of sexual abuse) scared me off a little too. That being said, those who saw it raved about this show. I’m told Allison treats the subject matter with appropriate sensitivity and puts in a powerful performance. While I’m sure this one will be challenging, Falling Open is top of my list to see at Undercurrents 2012.

Highway 63: the Fort Mac Show, looks like an interesting piece of verbatim/documentary theatre, bringing to life the stories of the people who live in Fort Mac, Alberta. I love when communities use theatre to tell their stories. I’m also a fan of the verbatim movement so I’ll definitely be checking this one out.

So if you don’t know what to see, those are the two shows in the festival that I am most excited about. Get your tickets soon!