Since stampeding onto the Ottawa Fringe scene in 2015, Margo MacDonald’s The Elephant Girls has gone on to see great success with audiences in both Canada and the UK. With another month long tour planned to England this coming April, company Parry Riposte show no signs of stopping this momentum any time soon. Getting your tickets in advance is highly recommended given the production’s penchant for selling out and while it is here at undercurrents until the 18th, who knows when it will be back in Ottawa again!
Admittedly, this is my fourth time seeing this show (twice at the Ottawa Fringe in 2015 and once at the Ottawa Fringe holdover), having become a huge fan immediately after I saw it the first time, so I was most interested to see how the piece has developed since my last time seeing it. You can read my original review here (you’ll have to scroll down a bunch, sorry) because, to be quite frank, many of my thoughts and feelings towards this piece have not much changed. There are certainly some new additions to the text which I had not seen in the previous productions (for example: the story with Edith and her broken fingers) and they are expertly woven into the text adding more depth and colour to the character of Maggie Hale and her story.
The other characters MacDonald portrays feel ‘lived in’ and familiar now, like Babyface Bertha and Diamond Alice herself, which makes the storytelling more dynamic than it has been in previous iterations. There is no doubting MacDonald’s skills as an actor (her accent work is superb and her face is expressive, present, and varied for each character) and overall the production is a showcase of her ability to deliver a really engaging narrative. Though the movement in this piece is very minimal, the attitude and expression that MacDonald has built into the performance help to make up for this.
Now, though, my only qualm is that after my fourth time seeing The Elephant Girls I feel as though some of the magic has been lost for me. While I love the exploration of female sexuality and power; and the androgyny of Maggie as a character, I don’t feel as though I’ve left the performance this time around with any new insight about the material as a whole. Ideally, a well layered piece of art will reveal more and more of its nuances each time it’s viewed by an individual. It’s often why you hear people describe their favourite books as being their favourite precisely because each time they read it they find something new and exciting to them. I think, in this regard, The Elephant Girls falls a little short. However, I am also willing to recognize that I am probably part of only a handful of people who can say they’ve seen this show more than twice (I’m telling you: tickets are a hot commodity!).
This show is definitely worth checking out if not for the great storytelling then for MacDonald’s portrayal of one bad ass chick pulled, no doubt, from the proverbial depths of the male dominated British history books. Playing until February 18th as part of the undercurrents Theatre Festival, show times and ticket information can be found here.