Been having a slow kinda week here at the Visitorium…aside from the NAC season launch, I haven’t caught a single show. I blame the unseasonably warm weather, which is giving me a bad case of the lazies. Thank goodness I already HAD tickets for something tonite, or I probably would have stayed home yet again, rewatching old British sitcoms or finishing off my latest FANTASTIC FOUR trade paperback.
This evenings show was the opening night performance of Hannah Moscovitch’s EAST OF BERLIN at the GCTC. Directed by the (safe to say) brilliant Joel Beddows, currently nominated for best directing Prix Rideau Awards in TWO languages, Hannah’s play tells the story of Rudi (Simon Bradshaw), a young German growing up in Paraguay in the late ’50s/early ’60’s, who makes some unfortunate discoveries about just what his Father did for the Nazis during the war (hint: it was pretty much the worst thing you could think of). His revelation, and his initial knee-jerk retaliation, both center around his friend Hermann (Pierre Antoine Lafon Simard), with whom he shares a fractured relationship to say the least. Fleeing back to his homeland, Rudi meets his first real-live Jew, the beautiful Sarah (Catherine Boutin), searching for answers to her own past as the child of a deathcamp survivor. They fall in love, even while Rudi keeps the truth of HIS past a secret. Not that things like that EVER end well…
First things first…the set, by mad genius Ivo Valentik, is bloody AMAZING. He may have topped himself with the towering, vaguely disturbing and off-kilter madhouse that frames all the onstage action. And for Ivo to top himself, well, that’s saying something. Martin Conboy’s lighting, and Jean Michel Ouimet’s haunting soundscapes also hit all the right marks. And the performances are solid indeed…Simard as too-smart-for-his-own-good outsider Hermann, and Boutin as clever, searching Sarah both turn in great work.
But it’s Simon Bradshaw, who is onstage for every scene of the 100 minute runtime, whose show this is to make or break, and sweet motherfucking HELL does he ever make it. Simon’s flawless performance as the deluded, tortured, chain-smoking Rudi is absolutely inspiring, and makes this easily one of the most must-see shows of 2012. He especially has a way with Moscovitch’s particularly dark and funny gallows humour (more than one Hitler joke abounds in the savvy script…who says Ottawa stages don’t take chances?) that both endears and horrifies at the same time. Joel’s put together one impressive show here gang, and if there’s any justice the GCTC has a hit on their hands. I know I’ll be more than happy to catch it again when I do my volunteer shift in a couple weeks. Hope to see some of you there! Peace, love and soul
The Visitor (and Winston)