Archives for January 2017

Backstage in Biscuit Land is a wildly creative place

Jess Tom and Jess Mabel Jones mine the inherent theatricality and humour of Tourette's syndrome in Backstage in Biscuit Land.

Jess Mabel Jones and Jess Thom show us the toothbrushes Thom’s overnight assistants leave at her place in Backstage in Biscuit Land.

Jess Thom, who has Tourette’s syndrome, says that, ages ago, a friend of hers described Tourette’s as a “crazy, language-generating machine”. He also told her that she’d be nuts not to use her condition to make art. That friend was right. Very right. Extraordinarily correct.

Backstage in Biscuit Land, which Thom wrote and performs with fellow Brit Jess Mabel Jones, explores Thom’s experience of living with Tourette’s. And, as it turns out, Tourette’s is a remarkably reliable producer of startling comic moments. In its relentless unpredictability—its immediacy—it is also fantastically theatrical. [Read more…]

Every Brilliant Thing could be more brilliant

In Duncan Macmillan's Every Brilliant Thing, Johnny Donahoe plays a man who's mom first attempted suicide when he was seven.

Johnny Donahoe charms in Every Brilliant Thing. But is that enough?

Every Brilliant Thing is mildly diverting. I want more than that from a show about suicide and depression. I don’t need a gut punch, but I do want substance.

British stand-up comic Johnny Donahoe performs Duncan Macmillan’s script—Donahoe also gets a writing credit—with help from audience members. [Read more…]

Cuisine and Confessions is food for the soul

Melvin Diggs and Sidney Bateman perform a hoop-diving routing in Cuisine and Confessions.

In Cuisine and Confessions, Melvin Diggs and Sidney Bateman fly through portals in space.

Friends, don’t even read to the end of the review before you book tickets for Cuisine and Confessions. Do it now. Here’s the link:

Having done that, you should know: Cuisine and Confessions is one of the most sublime acrobatic performances you’ll ever see. Québec company The 7 Fingers has gathered performers from around the world. In Cuisine and Confessions, these artists share their considerable skills as well as personal stories about what food has meant in their lives. While doing that, they also cook. At the end of the performance, you can share in the meal.

I defy you to see this show and not shout out in joy and wonder. [Read more…]

Cuisine and Confessions: book now. Because I am your friend.

Cuisine and Confessions: book now. Seriously. On till Sunday. Acrobats and storytelling. Will post review tomorrow.

Cuisine and Confessions at the Playhouse

BULL—as in “bully” and “bullfight”, but not “Bully for them.”

Kate Isaac plays Isobel in Made it Ma's Equity Co-op production of Mike Bartlett's Bull.

Kate Isaac doesn’t really get bloody playing Isobel in Bull. Must be a metaphor.

I’ve never encountered a script less in need of a spoiler alert, but I’m going to issue one anyway. If you’d prefer to remain innocent of information regarding the plot of Bull, read no further.

The surprising thing about the plot twists in Bull is that there aren’t any.

[Read more…]

Accept the challenge of The Nether

Julia Siedlanowska plays the innocent Iris in The Nether.

Julia Siedlanowska plays the innocent Iris in The Nether.

Don’t be afraid of this play. Redcurrant Collective’s mounting of The Nether, which was a hit at the Fringe, is bound to be one of the best shows of the 2016/2017 season.

Jennifer Haley’s script is thematically intriguing and impeccably constructed. A police procedural set it in the near future, it tips back and forth between the ordinary world and the Nether, an iteration of the internet that contains virtual worlds where customers can spend time while assuming characters.

Off the top, a detective named Morris, who seems to be a vigilante, is interrogating Sims, who has set up a virtual world called the Hideaway. It’s an idealized Victorian realm that still has trees and blue skies, which are no longer generally available on planet Earth. It’s also a place where pedophiles can have sex with children, and murder them if they choose. (Don’t recoil; The Nether is neither sensationalistic nor inhumane.) [Read more…]

By Heart touches the heart—sometimes

Tiago Rodriguez conducts a chorus of volunteers in By Heart.

Tiago Rodriguez conducts a chorus of volunteers in By Heart.

Tiago Rodrigues is a charmer. By Heart can be transcendent: it moved me to tears more than once. And, in between those bits, I sometimes found it pedestrian.

In By Heart, Rodrigues teaches ten audience volunteers a 14-line poem. The night I attended, there was no problem filling the on-stage chairs; a couple of eager folks were standing in the aisles before Rodrigues was even ready for them. [Read more…]

Mess can be a problem. It can also be spectacular.

Mess explores anorexia nervosa.

In Mess, Caroline Horton’s character Josephine builds herself a pretty trap with anorexia.

Because Mess is in excellent in some ways but not in others, I suspect it owes its longevity partly to the importance of its subject matter. In Mess, which was first performed in 2012 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, writer Caroline Horton explores anorexia nervosa. She uses her personal experience with the illness as a guide.

Designed to play mostly to teenaged audiences, Mess is abstract—deliberately symbolic and metatheatrical. Off the top, in a combination of sincerity and irony that is a hallmark of the show, Josephine, the main character, announces, “Today, we are going to tackle issues and conquer stigma.” Then we follow Josephine, who is played by Horton, as she slowly subsides into mental illness and struggles to free herself from it. Her strategies include a long-term stay in a treatment facility. [Read more…]

And Bella Sang With Us. Again. Still not well.

Playwright Sally Stubbs takes on the story of Lurancy Harris and Minnie Miller in "And Bella Sang With Us".

Leanna Brodie and Sarah Louise Turner as Canada’s first female police officers in “And Bella Sang With Us”. (Emily Cooper photo)

At the end of And Bella Sang With Us, there’s a sense that a story will continue, which is odd because, in the play itself, there’s almost no sense that a story has begun. Playwright Sally Stubbs introduces us to characters and she sets the scene, but the plot feels like a loose collection of tangents, and little meaning accumulates.

And Bella Sang With Us, which is fictional, unfolds in Vancouver in 1912. Constables Lurancy Harris and Minnie Miller—their historical namesakes were Canada’s first female cops—are on the job in the area we now call the Downtown Eastside. The ladies of the Central Mission Rescue and Protective Society have lobbied hard for their placement, feeling that female officers would be better able to deal with the “female morality issue”—meaning, basically, prostitution. [Read more…]

A toast to two young artists: Adele Noronha and Chris Lam

Adele Noronha (foreground) with the incomparable Laara Sadiq in "Brothel #9".

Adele Noronha (foreground) with the incomparable Laara Sadiq in “Brothel #9”.

I hope you haven’t put away all of your champagne yet, because I’d like to raise a toast to two young artists who upped their game in 2016: Adele Noronha and Chris Lam.

Noroha came into her own with her subtle, intelligent performance as Anne, in the frank theatre company’s production of Sean O’Leary’s Walt Whitman’s Secret. And she knocked it out of the park playing Rekha, a young woman sold into prostitution in Touchstone Theatre’s mounting of Anusree Roy’s Brothel #9.

This past year, Lam boldly explored his artistic range in a number of different capacities. He directed a haunting production of The Nether at the Fringe. (The Nether will bring its provocative take on pedophilia back to the Firehall Arts Centre, January 18 to 28.) He offered a subtle acting performance as a shy teen in Dry Land at the Tremors Festival. He showed off his singin’ and dancin’ chops, leading a number called “The Shipoopi”, in the Gateway’s production of The Music Man. And he even had a pubic reading of his new play, Andre and Xavier BB for the First Time at the frank’s queer symposium Q2Q.

Please join me in a toast to Adele Noronha and Chris Lam. May they continue to thrive in their lives and in their art.

Chris Lam, actor, director, playwright

Multi-talented artist Chris Lam looking camera-ready.