Another day, another lineup of Undercurrents premieres to watch and dig into? Oh, February, you do send off mixed signals. Do you love me with your theatre, or hate me with your freezing cold? I guess I’ll take the former, in an unusual bout of positivity…I do love me some Undercurrents after all (tho it could warm up ANY time now…just a little, deal?).
So after a fine and full opening night, with SKIN, BREAD, THE PUBLIC SERVANT and pizza to top it all off, it was back to the GCTC studio at Holland and Wellington last night for two more shows, including the second world premiere of the festival. This one, from GCTC company-in-residence Skeleton Key, was the long awaited LADIES OF THE LAKE. The company, formed by local superwomen Kate Smith (who stars) and Catriona Leger (who directs), has been working on this piece for a good long while now, and I was on pins and needles (figuratively, not literally, in case you were worried) waiting to see what they had come up with.
Inspired by the Arthurian legend of the Lady of the Lake, LADIES stars Kate Smith as Vivienne, a wandering young woman plagued by violent visions, who is drawn to a particularly creepy lake as a result. There she meets Ambrose (show co-creator John Doucet, sporting a fine toque and doubling as set designer), a smooth-talking drifter with a practiced air of mystery. Things quickly take a turn for the supernatural when the even MORE mysterious woman (Dilys Ayafor) from Vivienne’s visions appears. Seems she and Ambrose have issues from way, way back, and Vivienne is now unwittingly caught up in the middle of it. And as this is steeped in legend and myth, it isn’t likely that everyone is walking away happily ever after.
LADIES takes a very theatrical approach to telling this story, using a great deal of physicality and movement, combined with song (an old nursery rhyme is used repeatedly to great effect) and a sweet Steven Lafond soundtrack. The John Doucet set (John Dou-Set?) is a very evocative piece of backdrop, and the actors put it to good use, stalking across, over and through it. Dilys Ayafor made a kick-ass Fury in the Ottawa Theatre School production of THE EUMENIDES last year, and she continues to impress here as the unnamed but imposing antagonist (or is she..?) of the piece. On the whole, I’m afraid the story never really sucked me in…Vivienne, while handled nicely by the great Kate Smith, didn’t have much to offer as a heroine. And I wasn’t sure if we were going for a modern or ancient story, or if that even mattered. Then again, as I repeatedly point out in these pages, I sometimes suck at imagery. And the strong performances and eerie/cool mood and lighting more than make this show worth the trip. I’d also like to make a shout-out to costume and make-up artiste Vanessa Imeson, who has some spectacular looks on display here. Skeleton Key is off to a strong start, and I expect great things from them down the road. As it is, I still got one more show to write about before I sleep, so I’d better get on with it. Next up: HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE LIVE MUSIC VIDEOS! Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)