Archives for March 2017

Redpatch tells a worthwhile story too earnestly

Hardline Productions has produced Redpatch

Raes Calver and Deneh’Cho Thompson play First Nations WWI soldiers in Redpatch

Redpatch doesn’t work—at least it doesn’t work for me. I’m a white guy and Redpatch deals with the experience of a Métis soldier during WWI, so some might feel inclined to dismiss my criticism. But the company invited me to review the show, so here goes.

Raes Calvert and Sean Harris Oliver’s script introduces us to a young guy who goes by the name of Half-Blood. He is determined to enlist and fight for Canada in “the war to end all wars”. Half-Blood’s grandmother, She Goes Between, warns him not to sign up. “War doesn’t make men brave,” she says. “It doesn’t make men heroes.” But Half-Blood ignores her and he is soon on the battlefields of France. There, his skills as a tracker and hunter prove useful—and lethal. He turns into a killing machine, venturing into no man’s land under the cover of darkness and slaughtering scores of German soldiers.

Was Half-Blood’s grandmother right? Of course. Does war make Half-Blood a hero? Of course not. As it turns out, Half-Blood has to untangle a trauma involving his childhood best friend before he can release himself from his compulsion to slaughter. [Read more…]

In Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches, the fabric is tattered, but still beautiful

There are gaping holes in director Kim Collier’s production of Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches, but it’s still worth seeing.

When you first encounter Ken MacKenzie’s set, it’s stunning. The walls of the Stanley Theatre segue into the set itself, in which a wide, shallow playing area that looks like it’s made of limestone, is backed by curving lines of massive Greek columns and steeply ascending steps. We’re probably in front of a courthouse—but it could also be a bank. That makes sense because Tony Kushner’s play takes place in New York City in 1985, during the height of the first wave of the AIDS epidemic in North America, and in the middle of Ronald Reagan’s reign as President of the United States; Millennium Approaches is concerned with justice and interpersonal responsibility, especially as those themes play out in capitalist America. [Read more…]

Belfast Girls: immigration on a leaky vessel

In Belfast Girls, the acting often surpasses the script.

Making theatre is like making music in a group: for either activity to really work, none of the elements can be out of tune or off-rhythm. In Belfast Girls, several components coordinate nicely. Others don’t.

Playwright Jaki McCarrick starts with a fascinating historical subject: during the Irish Famine, about 4,000 young Irish women accepted free passage to Australia as part of the Earl Grey Scheme. Supposedly, the scheme was designed to give young, impoverished females fresh opportunities in the New World and to stabilize the rough-and-ready, male-dominated colony. According to Judith, one of the characters in the play, the Earl Grey Scheme was also designed to rid Ireland of many of its “public women” or prostitutes.

In McCarrick’s play, we’re on a ship with five women who are making the voyage. Unfortunately, their dialogue is often declarative and didactic. Characters spew too-tidy monologues that sum up their life stories. Judith, a determined positive thinker, gives Sarah a lecture about empathy. Later, the embittered Sarah proclaims, “I don’t want to be understood. I want to be dead inside. For what do I hear? Only the dead survive in Australia.”

Mysterious Molly, who arrives bearing books, is a proto-feminist. “You do have choices,” she lectures the other women. “There are groups startin’ all over the world.” In her interest in women’s rights, Molly is ahead of the historical curve, but she certainly has a point. Unfortunately, despite the multifaceted oppression the characters face, Molly’s analysis remains abstract. Molly gives Judith Das Kapital and Judith immediately latches onto the idea of class warfare, but, with one notable exception, we don’t get a clear picture of the ways that the politics of gender and class play out on the boat.

Within this somewhat leaky literary vessel, there’s some very nice work from the cast. Olivia Sara Grace plays Molly with a compelling stillness that bespeaks intelligence and an active internal life. And Amelia Ross inhabits Sarah with such simple conviction that I completely bought the character’s dark backstory. In Act 1, there’s a scene between these two that’s the highlight of this production. Paige Gibbs, who plays Ellen, has less time than the rest to highlight her character’s tragedy, but she accesses it honestly and movingly. She also has the most nuanced accent of all the passengers. Although Tegan Verheul, who plays Fat Hannah, is far from fat—which makes some of the dialogue nonsensical—she delivers a sincere portrait that she embellishes with robust comic timing.

Judith is a central character and, unfortunately, actor Mariam Barry struggles with her accent. It’s inconsistent and Barry falls into a repetitive rhythm in which she chops sentences into chunks. Her performance is also more superficial than the rest, although it is sometimes obviously heartfelt.

The handsome, serviceable set is by Andy Sorensen, and Nicole Weismiller provides the evocative lighting.

So, as I said: several successful elements, but the effect of the flaws is significant.

BELFAST GIRLS By Jaki McCarrick. Directed by Wendy Bollard. Presented by Peninsula Productions. In the Cultch’s Vancity Culture Lab on Wednesday, March 15. Continues until March 18.

For tickets, phone 604-251-1363 or go to https://tickets.thecultch.com

The Pipeline Project delivers the (complicated) goods

Itsazoo and Savage Society are presenting The Pipeline Project at the Gateway Theatre.

In The Pipeline Project, Kevin Loring calls his truck the Chief: “I get to say that because I’m Indian.”

Probably the best thing about The Pipeline Project is that it’s a sincere invitation to dialogue. In this age of social media, so many are so eager to establish their political bona fides—and superiority—that it’s often impossible to have a vulnerable, complicated conversation in public. It’s good to know that real, human interactions can take still take place in the theatre.

In The Pipeline Project, three writers/actors—Sebastien Archibald, Kevin Loring, and Quelemia Sparrow—explore their relationship to oil. [Read more…]