It wasn’t lightly that I walked into Performance Works Theatre, knowing I was attending a performance about genocide. I tried to be good humored about it: “Ta-tah, off to see a little play about human atrocity – see you tomorrow!” I exclaimed to my colleagues as I left the office.

However, I was drawn to Goodness as soon as I read about it - morality is the principal theme broached in this production by Toronto-based company Volcano, with genocide used as a narrative to discuss this weighty subject. As a person generally inquisitive about the human condition, I instantly gravitated...

Goodness

Strips of white elastic hang from the ceiling. They create an ever-changing backdrop which sometimes feels like a forest, sometimes like a curtain drawn to give us sight into Townsville - a small town filled with the remaining few survivors from some unspoken world disaster. Townsville brings forth what the world would be like if it were run by a gaggle of showboaty teenagers. Sometimes insightful, sometimes self-centered, but always a full character exploration.

The town is a supposed utopia whose joy revolves around their beloved mascot, Sylvia the invisible elephant. All is well until Ariel, a.k.a. “Applebottom” (Ella Simon),...

Townsville, they've got talent on a string

Michael Redhill's play Goodness is partly inspired by the genocide in Rwanda, as the program notes explain. Yet the veteran Toronto playwright has chosen to craft a script where the conversations about goodness, war, ethics and revenge, could apply to any of the genocides that have happened in the last century.

A version of Redhill's self, a Michael played by Gord Rand, goes to Poland in search of those who might remember what times were like when his Jewish forbears were murdered in a town square. He's mocked - it was your tragedy? you weren't even alive! - and finds...

Goodness

For me, the success of April 14, 1912 hangs on two death scenes. One is of a man, the 1st Marconi (telegraph) Officer on board the Titanic (Matthew Romantini), drowning in the sea. Both legs and one hand are on the bare stage floor, but the rest of his body is convincingly in an environment hostile to human life. And he surrenders to it at last.

The second death scene feels about 12 minutes long, and in a 60-minute piece, that's forever. A woman in the remnants of a sea-green gown, covered in barnacles and dripping seaweed, slowly, agonizingly, sinks...

April 14, 1912; photo credit: Lindsay Anne Black

All the previous Magnetic North Festivals have featured a production showcasing the students and emerging artists of the host city. This year, it’s the turn of Vancouver’s The Chop Theatre in a co-production with Studio 58, Langara’s well-regarded theatre program. The Chop are probably the coolest of the younger generation of theatre companies in Vancouver.

While they are probably best known for the Patti Fedy plays that were huge Fringe hits, it is their more recent work that is most interesting, including 2 Truths + 1 Lie = Proof (presented by Rumble at the...

Townsville, where's sylvia?

Anyone who is vaguely interested in attending HIVE2 should go, at once, and not read anything about it before hand. Don’t even let anyone tell you what they saw there last night, and that includes this review. The next paragraph is safe, but the one after that should be avoided, along with all that follows.

HIVE2 is a group of eleven site-specific, short works (5-15 minutes), all performed in different spots in an old factory. Each has been created by a different West coast theatre company. HIVE2 depends on surprise, and particularly on the audience's surprise at the different spaces...

Theatre SKAM at HIVE2

In a Montreal-style apartment, a fridge door sunk inside a cityscape wall of tin cans separates reality from fiction. It is through this divider that the audience enters the theatre.

We are the guests of the performers, they serve us, they tease us, they throw grapes at us, and then the show begins. Faon Shane, a sultry redhead, lures an audience member with an apple. Will he take it? Of course – with ready ease. “Men. They never learn.”

Coquettishly she turns back to her roommates as a fight over the apple turns into a dance with a tablecloth 30...

Loft, good clean fun

Some people – usually men and, in my experience, often English – like to make lists and rank things in order of excellence or bestness. In making their lists of the Greatest Movies Ever Made, they usually rank Godfather II ahead of the original Godfather for, of course, it is “the sequel that was better than the original”.

Personally, I could never choose between the two Godfather films (in my world there is no III). Which was better? Who cares? I love them both. The first Godfather had great narrative thrust and plenty of verve while the second had a...

HIVE, feel the love

Go see this show!

Why?

1) It is fun, sexy, and exciting.

2) You will be awed by what the human body can achieve; you will laugh, clap your hands and shout; your breath will catch in your throat.

3) You enter the auditorium through a fridge.

And that’s about all you need to know.

What’s that? I’m supposed to write some more?

OK. You asked for it.

I once conceived a proposal for a television series that had nothing more than a working title: Girls in Pajamas. I thought that was about all I needed...

Loft, circus, dance, pyjamas

HIVE2 takes our audience selves and blurs the possibilities of what we're invited to be.

When we walk into the large, hangar-like space that used to be a Finning factory, the atmosphere is enticing. The lighting is medium-low but comfortable. Curtains and doorways close off certain parts of the building, piquing our anticipation. People gab and drink as they stand waiting at the "stations" that each of the 11 theatre companies has installed to sort out different sizes of audiences. Capacities range from 1 for The Only Animal to 18 who get to carry "The End Is Here!" signs for...

HIVE2: the crowds gather

Well, I was feeling good about my review assignment last night. Andy Jones’ show An Evening with Uncle Val was up at Presentation House promising a dose of Newfoundland comedy.

I know all about Newfoundland. Heck, I lived in Halifax for two years, so that’s real expertise, right? And I saw a movie about the place once. There were a bunch of academics, (historians, actually) and they were sleeping around and stealing primary documents from each other, which you should never, never do, and Joey Smallwood was there, in a snowstorm, and then someone burned all the evidence which proved...

Andy Jones in An Evening with Uncle Val

There is a scene – maybe half way through blood.claat – where the mother of Mudgu, the play’s central character, appears. The scene takes us back approximately three years to when Mudgu had her first period, before her mother’s departure for Canada.

The mother’s reaction to her daughter’s period is in marked contrast to Granny’s disgust over a blood-stained sheet in a scene at the top of the play. Where Granny insists that Mudgu wash both the sheet and her “something” with Dettol, her mother greets the onset of menstruation as something to be celebrated. Mommy is so filled with...

blood.claat

"This is my story", the spirited young woman sings in her backyard, by the cinder blocks and corrugated tin walls.

She's washing the blood from between her legs with a cloth, and happy because she'll soon be heading off for netball practice before school. "I have gold trophies on my mind/woopsie all the time", she sings. The fact that she's washing away blood is essential, because this is a story about the power of blood: the blood of creation, and the blood of destruction.

Given the topic, it's a good thing we have mudgu (d'bi.young.anitafrika) to guide us, with her...

d'bi.young.anitafrika in blood.claat

One morning, a young geneticist awakes with a box on his head. The box is simple, unadorned cube and a familar, comfortable shade of brown. At first he thinks it's a dream, or a morning like when you're a sick child and your eyelids stick together, but he soon learns that the box is permanent. His questions begin to loop: am I alone, or is there someone else out there?

Unable to find out, and unwilling to kill himself, [boxhead], the star of the show by the same name, decides: "If I can't change the quality of my life, at...

Boxhead, it's lonely in the city

It’s hard to say anything bad about Andy Jones. He’s just such an affable guy. The kind of guy you just want to sit around drinking and laughing with and listen to him talk.

The opening scene of An Evening with Uncle Val sees Jones begin this one man show as Uncle Val, sitting at a table writing to his dear friend Jack back in his hometown, a village somewhere far away from St. John’s. The year is 1986, and Uncle Val has been banished to live in the suburbs of St. John’s with his daughter Margaret, her husband Bernard,...

Living it up with Uncle Val

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