Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Review - So You Think You Can Be A Music Theatre Idol, Venue #9

Those who know me know that i am very much anti-reality TV for the most part...indulging only for the sheer athleticism displayed on So You Think You Can Dance. So the opportunity to see a campy send up of all that i dislike was very appealing. White Rabbit Productions did a great job of putting together this parody, which balanced silly mockery with some great performances. Overall the tone of the piece was great, and I loved the audience participation. There was a sense however that some actors understood the campy style required a bit better than others; standouts for me were Vespa, Roi, Penelope, Claw, and Ripp Tripper. Some others I felt were in and out.....not always carrying the self-awareness needed for a performer to carry off this sort of a piece with seriousness to truly bring the audience in to the crazy world with them. I enjoyed the multimedia aspects and some clever staging, though I did feel the audio clips could have been mastered better to understand the actors more clearly, and some lighting cues were a bit off. Overall though this was really fun and I'd recommend it if you are looking for a good, silly, night of fun.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Review - Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Venue #13

What fun. Hedwig (played with beautiful specificity by Seth Drabinsky) and her fabulous backup band, The Angry Inch, take us through a rock and roll rollercoaster, re-telling the her rise to stardom. Well, close to stardom. The show beautifully moves from raucous fun rock numbers, to angry punk songs, to sorrowful ballads, each telling us a little bit more about Hedwig's transformation from little German boy in East Berlin, to captivating Queen rocking stages in North America. Never once did I question what was happening or the over-the-top relationships of the characters. Kudos must also be given to the silver-voiced actress who plays Itzak, Hedwig's husband. I can only dream of singing like her.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Review - The Apiarist, Venue #5

Mylee Nordin is delightful in this touching story of a young girl's encounter with the death of her neighbout, an old bachelor who keeps bees. The story moves gently from the feel of a lecture, to recount of the experiences, to lovely re-enacted memories of her youth. One standout scene included the re-telling of going to school at 14 with an eye swollen shut from a bee sting, brought to perfect comic life by Nordin. The character's growth through the play as she learns from the bees she finds herself caring for is quite enjoyable to watch.

Co-creator and director Heidi Malazdrewicz does a great job staging to bring the simple set to life. The production's use of photo and video projection added beautifully to the story as well. I did find that some shifts could have been more clear, perhaps through a more distinct shift in the light or physicality.

This was a highly enjoyable show, and a very informative one; I now feel quite informed about bees!

Review - Master Orloff and Madame Clodile's Freakshow Beautifique, Venue #15

I was excited heading into this show, as I have come to expect a high level of creativity and a certain aesthetic value from Theatre Incarnate's work. This production did not disappoint. Beginning with some excellent live music provided by the talented Claire Friesen, the show then spun out into a wordless exploration of the Master's obsession with the "freak" Clodille. The initial scenes felt a little slower as the relationship was built up, however soon the audience falls under the spell of master in the same way Clodille has. The imagery created by The two principals (Brenda McLean and Christopher Sobczak) was at once beautiful and horrific.
The production also featured young "Lizard Girl" in interludes, and she was a gem to watch.

Overall a strong production; I recommend it to those hoping to see something truly unique and outside the mainstream.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Review - To My Amazement, venue #9

This show was not on my initial list, however i make a rule for myself to see at least one show from a non-manitoban company, and at least one i know nothing about. this show met both criteia, with a company travelling from LA and Costa Rica. it began well, with a calm yogi, and moved into some interesting chorus work, including masks and some creative movement. This for me was intriguing; unfortunately i felt the show lost momentum from there. It moved into a series of scenes playing out the real-life scenarios in which each piece of yoga practice can be applied to help make one happier. The majority of these scenes felt contrived, and rarely did these actors feel connected to the material.

In addition, there were interludes from a young actor, the premise being that as a child we understand better how to interact with the world, and slowly most of us un-learn this. These grew unfortunately repetetive s the play continued to loop through these three types of scenes. The idea of the show was strong, but got muddied through the devices of the corus, scene, yogi and child all repeating over one another.

For me, the strongest point in the show was when the young character had one of her "to my amazement" speeches, and then herself moved into and out of a scene on the subject. This show could hve benefitted from more of these for a clarity of message.

Finally for a show preaching being "present" in life, the actors unfortunately rushed through most lines and scenes. At times they were difficult to understand, and rarely connected to the mterial in the scenes, seemingly reciting for a vocal tone of effect rather than to experience the text in the present.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Winnipeg Fringe Picks!

Here are my quick-picks for the Winnipeg Fringe this year. I'll be posting reviews of things I see, so check back :)

African Folktales with Erik de Waal - Kids Venue
- This is a kids show, but by no means is it kids-only. Erik deWaal is from South Africa, and travels to the fest each year. He is one of the most amazing physical storytellers i have EVER seen in my life. Sarah loves him so much she has his cd and listens to it at home regularly.

The Apiarist - Venue #5, Son of Warehouse
- I am invested in this one personally, as it is written, directed and performed by two dear friends of mine who are immensely talented. AND it is about beekeeping.

The Brain From Planet X - Venue #16, PTE Mainstage
- I helped out with this zany show as the choreographer for the tap dances, and a couple other numbers. It is HILARIOUS and i don't put that label mildly. Imagine a 50s leave it to beaver perfect american family who meet up with two aliens and their leader, a giant brain, who want to take over america. Very "fringe"

Etoile - Kids Venue
- this is my pick for best kids show this year. If you have little ones, you should go!! It follows the life of a little girl who seeks fame, and learns its price.

Hedwig and the Angry Itch - Venue #13, Pyramid
- I have been trying to see this crazy rock show for a few years now and have failed. I vow to see it.

It's YES: A one-man mockery of all things human - Venue #4, Manitoba Museum
- Spoken word, criticism of humanity....what more does one need? If you were around MEME festival and saw the dude with the fish puppet...this is him!!

Master Orloff & Madame Clodille's Penny Arcade Freakshow Beautifique or The Illusionary Box - Venue #15, Studio Incarnate
- I was part of Theatre Incarnate's last project, and have always been a fan of their work. You will see something unique, challenging, and intellectual...and probably just outside your comfort zone. And you'll LOVE it.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

On Funding, Cuts, and making a living....

OK. This is coming a bit belatedly, however I really wanted to clarify my thoughts before jumping into the debate about the arts funding decision made related to the SummerWorks Festival in Toronto.

Initially, I am outraged; the idea that Heritage Canada would coincidentally stop funding the festival, one it has generously supported for five years running, the year following a production which reportedly outraged Prime Minister Harper as a play "glorifying" terrorism is a bit of a pill to swallow. Given the need for control that Mr Harper has demonstrated in so many other areas of his leadership, I find it impossible to believe that he played no role in the decision not to fund the festival.

Secondly, I am fuming at the suggestion from Finance Minister Jim Flaherty that artists should not "rely on" funding from government. Sure! At the very core I agree; I wish nothing more than the ability for artists to create new and challenging works, and pay for them with ticket prices. To avoid reliance on donation, sponsorship, and grants would be a whole new realm of artistic freedom. The reality of the matter is that this is next to impossible. Even with funding, it is tough for theatre companies to make ends meet when you add up the costs of space (if you are lucky enough to own your own...or goodness knows, renting!), paying the performers for rehearsal and show times, designers, directors, set and costume construction, stagehands...the list goes on. If a company were to try to actually turn a profit solely from ticket sales, prices would skyrocket! And this is just considering non-equity performers and non-union houses. Once you factor in using an IATSE house or a cast of CAEA performers the cost of production further increases.

But this isn't anything new, nothing we didn't know before. . .

Alas, here is the challenge I pose to the government; pay fair price to the performers who you trot out on display as soon as there are foreign dignitaries, a party of some kind (Canada Day anyone?) or a reason to celebrate. Think of the extravaganza recently put together in Ottawa for Wills & Kate's visit to Canada; normally Canada Day on the Hill is quite a Fete, but this year really outshone previous efforts. Ask yourself....did the Government of Canada really pay a fair contracted price to each and every performer who stepped on that stage? I mean sure, each had an honourarium, and the "priviledge" of performing for Royalty. Great! But what was their contract? Did they get a fair, equity approved wage for the rehearsal time and performance call time? I am making an educated assumption that they did not; my sister travelled as a teen to perform in Ottawa for Canada Day. My parents paid for her travel and accomodations, and the choir she was with got an honourarium that worked out to mere dollars per performer. I doubt much has changed.

So Dear Mr Flaherty and Mr Harper; if you want to start telling artists that they shouldn't depend on grants, put your money where your mouth is and pay them fair wage for the work they do for you.