The undercurrents theatre festival has made a name for itself by trying to showcase some of this country’s boldest theatre performances here in the Capital city. Last year saw the exhilarating stage presence of Sébastien Heins and the bass-thumping Brotherhood: the Hip Hopera, not to mention the audio-adventure that was Ghost River Theatre’s Tomorrow’s Child. This year, Festival Director Patrick Gauthier has curated a lineup that he describes as reflecting “deeply personal and political” themes on stage. Our first impressions of the 2018 festival programming continue below the jump!
The Pipeline Project produced by Savage Society and ITSAZOO Productions
It’s pretty exciting to have the National Arts Centre’s Artistic Director for Indigenous Theatre participating in this year’s undercurrents festival. In a piece that looks to examine the ethics behind building oil pipelines, one can only imagine that it will attempt to show how everyone has a stake in the conservation of our natural resources and not just our Indigenous communities. Not only is it a great way to integrate Loring back into the local theatre scene, but the content itself is worth seeing given the timeliness of the issues at hand.
Forstner & Fillister Present: Forstner & Fillister In: Forstner & Fillister produced by F&F Theatre
Now, if you’re an undercurrents regular then you might have seen these gentlemen at this festival before. In an expanded 70 minute version Forstner & Fillister are back after having gone through the under development program facilitated by the undercurrents festival itself. What we’re most looking forward to in this piece is watching the performers play with the performativity and theatricality of a craft like woodworking and using that to build their respective character arcs.
Little Boxes produced by Little Boxes Collective
Another local show that has seen it’s fair share of development time (it was developed in conjuction with Kevin Orr and Theatre 4.669): Little Boxes is finally ready to hit the mainstage. This show has been getting a lot of buzz given the dream team that’s producing it. Though we do worry about the concept of millenials living in suburbia being a little overdone, we have more than enough confidence in this creative team to create something memorable. Don’t let an arguably underwhelming plot description fool you, we wouldn’t recommend skipping this one.
The Twilight Parade produced by STO Union
This show might sound confusing to some: it’s a video recording of a live production of The Twilight Parade while a cast of eight perform live voice overs for the audience in front of them. We find the concept very intriguing, however, we are curious to see how it all plays out on stage (are there going to be two sets of puppets, for example? Or will the performers be using costume changes to denote which character they will be playing?). That being said, the idea that the plot focuses on a puppet who questions his ownership and belonging is one that certainly appeals to our interests.
How to Disappear Completely produced by The Chop
To be completely honest, reading the plot description for this show made us wonder whether undercurrents has programmed another version of Arthur Milner’s Getting to Room Temperature– another piece that more or less documented the last moment’s of the performer’s mother’s life while questioning the bigger picture. When artists chose to put incredibly personal stories on stage (often dealing with difficult and/or taboo issues), as critics, we become wary that the material will turn into, for lack of a better term, a therapy session where the focus on emotionally manipulating the audience is far stronger than crafting a well-rounded piece of performance. All this to say, creator-performer Itai Erdal as an award-winning lighting designer has the potential, we feel, to tell his story from an incredibly different perspective (and aesthetic) than we’re used to (how many theatre techs can you name that went on to create and produce their own plays?).
Indigenous Walks created by Jamie Koebel
Returning to undercurrents for its second time now is the outdoor guided tour, Indigenous Walks. An important companion piece to all the mainstage shows (as Arts Court resides on the unceded territory of the Algonquin peoples), our critic Wes Babcock reviewed his experience last year. Long story short: we think this is a great opportunity for viewers to recontextualize the local history of Ottawa and it’s geography and we are happy to see this event being hosted by undercurrents again.
Snack Music produced by SNAFU and Snack Music Collective
Snafu has gained a bit of a reputation around the Ottawa Fringe Festival (and probably other Fringe festivals too, we’re sure) as the company with the most edible aesthetic. From Little Orange Man to Kitt & Jane, this collective uses different household products (namely food items) to create different characters, props, and even shadow puppets. Snack Music appears to be a mostly improv based performance where the actors bring one lucky audience member on stage to share a story which the performers then reenact with puppets and music. We are very much looking forward to this show as we know this company has the ability to turn out something really thoughtful, but we do admit to being a little nervous about the driving force of the show resting on the openness of the selected audience member (i.e. what happens if they tell an underwhelming and/or fake story?).
The Shit Show created and performed by Luna Allison
Squatty Potty owners unite- this show is for you! A 25-minute show about poop- literally.
Daughter a Quiptake and Pandemic Theatre Co-production
Pretty much every conversation we’ve had today that has revolved around the new undercurrents lineup, this show keeps popping up. Daughter, a show that analyses toxic masculinity and inherited prejudices, has been getting rave reviews so far in it’s hometown of Toronto, ON. We’re just gonna go ahead and suggest getting tickets early for this show, because we predict it’s going to be the show to see and it only has two performances.
Well, there you have it folks. Our first impressions of the 2018 undercurrents theatre festival. Stay tuned for our ‘Critics’ Picks’ come February! What are your thoughts and what are you most excited to see? Comment below!