Tag Archives: Arts Court

Fringe 2016: Small Creatures Such as We

An edited of this review was published by Apt613.
Brace yourself for a tough look at the scars left behind by a cruel adolescence in Small Creatures Such as We, a well written yet painful to watch at times offering by Angels in the Rafters productions.

An unassuming set with a sofa to stage left and a kitchen/bar to stage right provide a simple and effective method for time travel as the actors shift between their 14 and 16 year old selves on the sofa to their present day incarnations a decade later. As the performance unfolds layers past and present are progressively bared, as Kit (Vishesh Abeyratne) and Joanna (Meagan McDonald) travel back and forth between the two “rooms” gradually uncovering achievements, setbacks, fears and their most intimate trials and betrayals.

Kit has Joanna on his mind and, after a 10 year gap without contact he tracks her down for a visit. Reunited after a decade the lifestyle contrast is marked; he’s an accomplished actor while her life is in neutral, stalled, held back by her past and unseen damage.  Kit is tea-total “1 year sober” he tells Joanna as she pours herself strong drinks in quick succession. For Kit the time has passed quickly while Joanna “has felt every minute.”

The memory scenes coupled with a strong chemistry between the actors creates a believably convincing bond that begs the question as to why they’ve kept their distance.  Touching language mimics emotions: “I’ve been looking out for you” says Joanna while Kit confesses that during tours “I’d look out for you.”

A gradual and thoughtful build up to complexity of the piece swells the audience’s insight as the performance moves back and forth in time exposing glimpses of childhood and adolescence constructing a solid and compelling base that makes the viciousness that unfolds all the more tragic.

At times Fringe works aim for shock value however in Small Creatures Such as We the jolts are miles away from gratuitous; rather there is a sense of universality like exposing a disturbing truth or buried memories.  The authenticity is partially due to attentive crafting; thoughtfully constructed complex characters out of what could easily be unsympathetic personalities. It is also largely down to the sincere, never-overwrought, performances put in by McDonald and Abeyratne who bring an attentive realism to their roles.

There are improvements that should be considered, including a desperately needed redaction of the final line, but the writing in the whole is so very good, the subject matter admirably handled and the performances so true that it really should deserve a spot on the must-see Fringe list.

Ottawa Fringe Festival 2016
Small Creatures Such as We
Academic Hall 133 Séraphin-Marion
June 15-26, 2016

 

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Fringe 2016: In Waking Life

An edited version of this review was published by APT613

In Waking Life is a lively two-handed improvised performance piece that successfully mixes banter, musical numbers and audience participation. It’s an overblown fortune-telling romp celebrating off-the-wall humour and oddities.

In Waking LifeThe Norwegian-born psychic Synsk sisters, raised by a mother goat and surrounded by “family members” made up of a crystal ball, uncle 8-ball and the many cutie-catcher cousins are here in Ottawa to share their visions and delve in to their audience’s future. The Bring-Your-Own-Venue location in the basement of the Royal Oak on Laurier St E lends itself perfectly to production providing a cozy, old-world setting as the heavily-accented psychics “velcome” their clients.

 

The structure of the play has enough hooks to provide consistency in the quality of the improvisations and the performers easily stepped in to the breach when the audience members were slow to respond. Creator/performers Monica Bradford-Lea and Lauren Welchner bring unbridled energy to their character performances. Welchner’s Cora is manic and forthright while Bradford-Lea’s Garnish is all airy-fairy scatteredness and together both are side-splittingly funny.

It’s a cavalcade of non-stop action that appears random but is planned and execute well in a seemingly haphazard manner that suits the characters and engages the audience. One attendee was comfortable enough to share a Guinness session that led him to pee in his own luggage so disarming is their appeal. Another particularly memorable scene had the sisters reading astrological texting advice from AstroGirl magazine which as they will be very pleased to tell you is “so stupid, but so fun.”

Dreams are dissected, love matches made, questions answered and fortunes told as the Synsk Sisters deliver a truly one-off psychic experience like you have never seen.

Previously improvised performance pieces leave me cold but with the Synsk Sister In Waking Life you’ll have a ball.…

Produced by Amped Up Theatre
Ottawa Fringe Festival 2016
June 15-26, 2016
BYOV – The Royal Oak 161 Laurier St E

 

Getting to Room Temperature – Undercurrents 2016

An edited version of this review was published by Apt613.ca

Fringe theatre by its very name explores characters and topics frequently marginalized.  Getting to Room Temperature adheres to this tradition in Arthur Milne’s one-man show recounting the struggles that accompany the decline and death of his mother Rose.

Based on Milner’s experience with his mother Rose’s death the work was inspired by her pursuit of assisted suicide when incapacitated by a lung infection in her early 90s.

Part personal story, part lecture the play follows a natural progression from childhood reflections on the “noble” death of Inuit elders once commonly believed to leave their families to die in the wild through to contemporary research on euthanasia and the repercussions of life-extending medical practices.

BoekstahlThe weighty material flows through Robert Bockstael’s seemingly effortless delivery weaving a believable humor with poignant remembrances and effective arguments. Bockstael feels familiar even intimate; a confidante who spins out his story as though at a fireside chat.

Having previously lost his father to cancer, in his early 70s, Milner balances the notion of death by illness versus death by old age. His father fights a losing battle while his mother sees science fight off what would have killed her in a previous era as her body and quality of life steeply decline.

The show is peppered with humour. Alone with his father at the time of death Bockstael comically relates all manner of trick to confirm death and, when he finally announces it to his family, “everyone looked at the nurse”. He recalls cracking bad “a guy goes to the doctor” cancer jokes to relieve the anxiety: the good news is you have cancer, the worse news is you have Alzheimer’s. Well at least it isn’t cancer. The show uses laughter throughout the production mimicking real-life coping strategies to relieve the strain of death.

Via anecdotes of hearing loss and blaring televisions to the move to a retirement home, Milner asks us to weigh-in on serious questions including the impact of incessant medical intervention, quality of life and the financial strain of eldercare telling us squarely that aging in any dignified sense requires deep pockets in Canada. Despite top-of-the-line facilities providing quality care and accommodations shadows lurk in the corners where dementia lives and is studiously avoided until it takes hold.

Bockstael asks many questions and convincingly delivers many interlocking theories on death: the search for death is not an illness, suffering is not a virtue. From a Polish-Jewish background that fled the Nazi who wiped out her remaining family are we right to require, as a society, that Rose suffer more? Are we right, as a society, to require that anyone gripped in a painful old age suffer more? Do the aged, like the terminally ill, have the right to die; this is at the very crux of the production.

This personal story cum TEDtalk raises universal questions about aging and eldercare that are provocative and timely. Milner’s work is well-time with law makers currently struggling to legislate Canada’s 2015 Supreme Court ruling on the right to assisted suicide.

Where do we go next? That is the lingering question in this journey of Getting to Room Temperature.

Getting to Room Temperature
Undercurrents
February 10-20, 2016
Arts Court
2 Daly Ave

 

Monstrous, or, the Miscegenation Advantage – Undercurrents 2016

 

An edited version of this review was published by Apt613.ca

Mis-ceg-e-na-tion (noun): the interbreeding of people considered to be of different racial types.

monstrous1Sarah Waisvisz travels a murky, muddled and miss-remembered heritage in Monstrous a world premiere performance at Undercurrents that blends storytelling to dance in Waisvisz search for cultural belonging. Premiering during Black History Month this work comes at an opportune moment offering insight into the baggage carried by many North American’s in relation to cultural identity.

Monstrous explores, from mostly a personal perspective, the lost history of stolen and exiled people whose birthright was clouded by the impact of slavery, the holocaust and enforced displacement.

Born to a family of both the African and European Jewish diaspora Waivisz finds her identity inconsistently, interchangeably and assuredly defined by strangers. Straddling a range of indefinable skin tone somewhere between dark European and light African she is the “ethnic” child while her brother is the blonde “Gerber baby”. Growing up they play slave trader games and no points in guessing how the roles were divided.  As an adult strangers pronounce her identity assuredly and inconsistently: black, white, Israeli, Lebanese, Caribbean, Italian and other. The consistent repeated disassociation coupled with in-family jokes leads Waisvisc to self-diagnose herself as suffering from cultural schizophrenia.

Waisvisc dynamic energy fill the minimalist set where music, projection and dance illustrate a global trek as stories, anecdotes, lies, hearsay and research are pulled from this trunk of family history.

Africa, Europe & Martinique all figure  large in the exploration of a family’s legacy. Waivisz’s multilingual talents and her choice of French-language music serve this production well emphasizing the international scope. “Pourquoi tu n”habite pas ici tati?” gives an authenticity to this self-reflective production.

She travels to Martinique, where her parents first met, and remarkable silhouetted shadow-play on evocative projections linking sensory impacts – sound, sight, taste – with the cultural sense of self – “I want to remember everything – how do I know I will ever return”.

monstrous2Stories and research are played out through song, chalk maps and dance episodes so masterful that the room burst in to spontaneous applause. Through her performance and a vibrant selection of projections Waivisz takes us from Africa to Martinique, to Ottawa, Rotterdam, Paris, Ferney and beyond.

How do you define yourself when your cultural identity is blurred? Take a trip with Monstrous to decide.

Undercurrents
February 10-20, 2016
Arts Court
2 Daly Ave

 

 

Seasonal Fun @planetcoffeeott @gallerydotca @artscourt @daslokal & more

Tis indeed the silly season with loads of sparkly gear and nights out.  Here are a few events in and around the Ward that promise good times that won’t leave you too worn out.

Sing-a-long Sundays @planetcoffeeott Every Sunday 4-7PM from now til Xmas you can grab a cup of joe and belt out your favourite festive airs. Come to this local people place and join in the fun or for a giggle critique the warbling. Sing-a-longs rock – thanks for hosting Planet C!

photoParliament Hill Festive Lights Thursday Dec 3rd 7PM is the illumination ceremony on the Hill. Fun kicks off with a Peace Tower carillon concert at 6:30pm and there is free Beavertails and hot chocolate too.

Natl Gallery Tree Lighting Thursday Dec 4th 7PM. Don’t forget this is the evening the Gallery is free so art is accessible for all – so come early and enjoy.

Mayor’s Annual Xmas Celebration Saturday Dec 6th 2-6PM. Don’t forget a non-perishable donation for the Ottawa Food Bank as you take in this fun 14th annual event at City Hall. Enjoy the Rink of Dreams, meeting Mrs & Santa Claus,  get crafty and take in live performances. And leave your car at home – all OC Transpo routes to & from City Hall from 1:30-6:30 are free for kids 11 and under accompanied by an adult.

#NorthDal Holiday Shopping Night Tuesday Dec 9th Get out and shop #local this season on Dalhousie St.  If you like giving than consider that when you shop at a chain store less than 15$ stays in the community. When you shop at a local retailer 45$ stays #local.  Once you’re done consider a Gluhwein at Das Lokal!

HalaladaysBanner_EventKosher Jokes for the Halaladays Feeling left out of the festive season? Well no event list is complete without Arts Court so fear not Jewish and Muslim community as it’s the return of the 4th annual joke fest that unites all communities. Laugh on Dec 10th at Arts Court.

Inclusive Holiday sees Menorah Lighting in front of Ottawa City Hall for first time ever on December 16th.  Well done Ottawa. More of this please.

Eye Spy: Young Lady in White lights up @artscourt @tacticseries @evotheatre

A sold out opening night and rave reviews don’t stop the esteemed Counterpoint Players TACTICS’ Series from offering accessible theatre.

Today’s 2PM performance of “Young Lady in White” from local company Evolution Theatre is a Pay-What-You-Can affair at Arts Court.

The inventive play spans 76 years, from 1930-2009, from the vantage point of a young girl in an undeveloped photograph who witnesses history from her window in Germany as she awaits the return of the photographer. While war and progress unfold before her the historical context is tied to the personal struggle of her own hopes and dreams waiting to “develop”.

TACTICS’ gives local independent artists a chance to showcase their work in an affordable venue bringing quality theatre to the Ottawa stage. The TACTICS  series will run from November 2014 to April 2015 at Arts Court Theatre.

Please give generously to support the artists and to ensure PWYC theatre continues for those that cannot afford the arts.

Young Lady In White
Nov 7-15, 8PM – with 2PM matinees
20-25$
Arts Court Theatre
2 Daly Ave

Eye Spy: Local Micro Brewery joins Wonderful Waller St Businesses

Waller St is going from strength to strength.

First in, the Lunenburg Pub: a top retreat for craft beer, trivia, music, world-cup games, improv and more. There is always something going on in this pub tucked in the beautiful stone buildings at 14 Waller St.

Follow-suite The Loft which opened a few months ago in the upstairs space of 14 Waller. An airy and bright game board lounge with over 700 games to chose from as you sup a pint and enjoy tasty bites including the newly added locally-sourced Gluten-Free range of goodness.

Courtesy of WallerSt Website

Courtesy of WallerSt Website

Now add to the mix the neighbourhood’s own local micro-brewery set in the basement of this heritage building. The Waller St-Brewing company is set to open later this summer and we can’t wait to support this latest local venture. This brewing company gives it’s heritage home a significant nod with fine prohibition style branding and website.  Read more on this newcomer in the today’s Ottawa Metro.

So great to see entrepreneurs embracing and innovating while respecting the neighbourhood’s rich history.  Tucked alongside Nicholas St and Daly Ave favourites ArtsCourt, the Ottawa Art Gallery, SAW Gallery and the fabulous Albion Rooms there is no shortage of great nights out in Sandy Hill.