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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