This past Saturday may have been one of the more frigid days we’ve seen all winter, but that wasn’t enough to stop two of Ottawa’s professional theatre organizations, the National Arts Centre (NAC) and the Great Canadian Theatre Company (GCTC), from heating things up by announcing their brand new seasons to launch this Fall. Artistic Director Jillian Keiley of the NAC hopes that their 2017/18 season will inspire “great sparks” within audiences to “ignite conversation”, whereas the GCTC is promising a “raucous year ahead” with shows surrounding sex, music, and sibling rivalry. In any case, it looks like the Ottawa theatre scene might be in for a wild ride!
The third season of the Theatre Artists’ Co-operative: the Independent Collective Series (TACTICS) made its launch this past Sunday and this year we’re excited to see a compressed festival-style season with supersized artistic programming. With only two mainstage shows happening this year, Artistic Director and Festival Curator Bronwyn Steinberg has scheduled readings of five new pieces that are all in various stages of development. To top it all off, a number of supplementary activities are being offered throughout the two-and-a-half week run (and there’s a strong possibility the New Ottawa Critics might be given the opportunity to run our first ever ‘Critics’ Salon’). Given the quality of shows hosted by TACTICS over the last two seasons, I am very excited for this year’s line up.
For the first time ever, the Great Canadian Theatre Company is mounting a bilingual co-production with the hopes of forging new artistic relationships and creative opportunities within the city. Les Passants, written by Luc Moquin and directed by Jean Stéphane Roy, represents an “unprecedented partnership” in Ottawa and is a production you certainly won’t want to pass up.
When Stéphanie Turple first wrote Un-Countried she, like many of us, was still laughing off the idea of a Donald Trump presidency. Now, making its world premiere at the 2017 undercurrents Theatre Festival, Theatre 4.669’s production must contend with the fact that, given current political realities, the issues and messages within the piece now carry a lot more immediacy and relevance than they perhaps ever expected. Un-Countried is a well-constructed piece of drama (under the competent and watchful eye of director Kevin Orr) that, at its core, shows us that those who do not learn from history are only bound to repeat it.
One of my favourite parts about undercurrents are the Late Night pay-what-you-can performances. This year audiences who stick around the Arts Court Studio lobby will be treated to Vovk, running until February 11, and Faster than the Speed of Dating, starting February 16th, and the intimacy and cabaret-feeling of the Late Night shows add a nice variety to the main-stage shows. Vovk, written and performed by Lana Kouchnir, is an interesting solo piece that deals with a young woman trying to cure her writer’s block and, in the process, discovers her cultural roots.
I’m not going to be reviewing Norah Paton’s show Burnt in the traditional sense. Instead, what I want to talk about is the concept of “the magic of theatre”. People often bring up this phrase when they’ve witnessed some incredibly unique event during a live performance that was either completely accidental or coincidental. It’s the hyper-awareness of watching real people on stage where there is always the risk of something happening that is out of the control of anyone in the production team. It’s an event that can only happen on stage simply because of the ‘liveness’ of the event and it simply can’t ever be replicated (at least not in a genuine sense). Most people might only experience one or two of these events in their theatre going careers, but one thing is for sure: they often become the most unforgettable of theatre experiences.
Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera initially caught my eye because I am a big fan of using the style of hip hop music to convey narrative in theatre (see: my latest obsession with Hamilton). A co-production between b current Performing Arts Co. and writer-performer Sébastien Heins, this high energy production is not without vulnerability. Combining original music with physical theatre, this piece delivers both entertainment and poignancy.
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!
Strap on your snowshoes (though maybe
skates rainboots would be more appropriate at this point)- it’s time to make the winter pilgrimage down to Arts Court for the 7th annual undercurrents Theatre Festival which opens tonight (!!!) and runs until February 18th. Hosting a wide variety of live performance that brings together both local and touring artists, undercurrents strives to show the “best original, contemporary theatre” currently being created. This year’s festival will see two Ottawa-produced world premieres take the stage and one Ottawa Fringe Favourite return to its hometown before continuing on a seeming journey to global domination. So, what else can you expect from #undercurrents2017? Keep reading to find out what’s caught our attention so far!
I want to begin this review with a preface: the following article is not intended to discredit the experiences of those interviewed for The Ghomeshi Effect; the experiences of the performers delivering such dark material; or the gumption of creator-director Jessica Ruano, choreographer Amelia Griffin, and the entirety of Perspective Collective Theatre company for making art surrounding a very necessary and timely discourse. Finally, this review is not meant to invalidate or ‘judge’ anyone else’s experience of this show as I recognize that the content is simultaneously triggering and empowering, simply given the act of restoring a voice to those who feel unheard or ignored in these politically divisive times. That being said, this review does intend to look at The Ghomeshi Effect as a piece of live performance, mostly outside of its marketing and its social outreach and community events. Bearing this in mind, the show in its current iteration needs work in order to attain in performance the level of sophistication and polish necessary for a nuanced piece of social commentary.