How do I get three posts behind without even noticing it? Is it something to do with my laziness? It is, isn’t it? Because, like, that’s totally not fair. But fairness being what it is (ie: nonexistent), let’s start with the start. Which in this case would be Tuesday.
Booked off of drudgery and hung about downtown for some much needed playtime that day. I’ve really been slacking off on my plays this month, and I DO feel like a bag of crap for it. JEW OF MALTA, ROMEO AND JULIET, OPEN RELATIONSHIP…missed ’em all. Sorry folks, you deserved better, and I hope you had smashing runs. But no time to wallow, there’s still stuff out there! In tonight’s instance, down at the venerable Ottawa Little Theatre, as they team up with the Tara Players for a WWI ditty called OBSERVE THE SONS OF ULSTER MARCHING TOWARDS THE SOMME. I was right looking forward to this one, after having my historical-wartime-theatre appetite whetted with some multiple VIMY viewings a few months back. And this time, I finally got myself a front row seat! So far in the OLT I’ve been much further back, so this was a pleasant treat. Those who know me know…I likes me some front seatiness.
The play, by one Frank McGuinness and directed by Tara Players vet Tom Taylor, concerns a squad of 8 Irish WWI volunteers (Irish PROTESTANTS, mind you, none of that ‘Catholic’ nonsense for these strapping lads) from Ulster province. The story centers chiefly on the enigmatic Kenneth Pyper (played well by both Orrin Kerr and Jamie Kohlmeier), a smart-talking rogue who wears his deathwish on his sleeve. His loud personality quickly disturbs the barracks, making friends or causing fights as he goes.
Split into three main scenes (a first day intro, leave back home, and a final bloody assault at the Somme), the Ulster brigade pairs off as we delve into each of their prides and failings. Pyper befriends soft-spoken David Craig (Tim Ginley), while faith-stricken Roulston (Ian Stauffer) argues his lack of belief with Crawford (Cameron Preyde). Longtime friends William Moore and John Millen (Brett Willis and Dominic Gamble) struggle to find their courage, while brash Belfast lads Anderson and McIlwaine (Andy Moggridge and Alex Zacehrnuk) try and find a way to keep their OWN bellies full of fire. Everyone turns in a solid performance, with Brett Willis and Alex Zachernuk being standouts for me. Tom Taylor makes full use of the big, wide OLT stage, and Robin Riddihough’s set design (which I only just got done admiring in ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN at Algonquin) does a lot with a little, and very much impresses with a great final shot.
There was a bit of a technical glitch going on with the sound that evening, but didn’t prove much of a distraction. More of a distraction were my surprisingly rude fellow audience members, who were CONSTANTLY talking, coughing, or trying to see who could yawn the fucking loudest. Note: Staying home IS an option, jackasses. Go watch DANCING WITH THE STARS or something. You’re harshing my theatre mellow.
Overall, I had me a good time at ULSTER, and the lads turned in a rousing show. LOVED the kettle drum. Good on ya, Tara Players, and I look forward to your next collaboration with the OLT. Peace, Love and Soul,
the Visitor (and Winston)