Still behind on my reviews here, it’s getting bad folks. Not even gonna bother trying to do my usual PRIX RIDEAU AWARDS writeup…but let’s face it, I shouldn’t even have gone without my perma-date Nadine Thornhill to dance with. I was all grumpy and lonesome…should’a gone to Burlesque instead. Ah well. Loved the hula-hoop bit, tho.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of actual theatre to go and see, which is keeping me hopping. After catching Algonquin Theatre’s FLYING SOLO show on Monday (and hopefully I’ll have time to write something about that soon), last night was my first chance to run over to my soon-to-be Alma Mater at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama, for the last of three public shows from the graduating Ottawa Theatre School class. They’d previously done the Greek classic THE EUMENIDES and Lawrence Aronovitch’s world premiere FALSE ASSUMPTIONS, and now, as is appropriate, it was time for something completely different. An apt description, I think, for the great Canadian staple THE FARM SHOW.
A collective creation, spearheaded I do believe my one Miles Potter for Theatre Passe-Muraille in Toronto back in the 70’s, FARM SHOW is an amazing piece that feels part verbatim, that provides an incredible opportunity for the OTS kids to really stretch out and show what they can do. Entering the Studio with a rousing victory cheer and introducing themselves, the gang soon launches into a series of vignettes and stories collected from Clinton, Ontario about the great highs and terrible lows about rural farm life. Comparable to UNDER MILK WOOD from two years past, this show is a brilliant showcase for the talents of the graduating class, and they hurl themselves into the challenge immediately, transforming themselves into chickens, tractors and cows as the scene requires. Director Andy Massingham, a lad who knows a thing or two about physical theatre, is just about the perfect helmsman I can think of for this piece, and it shows.
Every actor gets a chance to shine in this show, from Nick Fournier’s harrowing account of baling hay to Alis Rainier’s cautionary tales about the darker side of farm living. Holly Griffith and Dilys Ayafor have a mightily memorable over-the-top battle as a pair of clashing tractors at a Farm equipment show, huffing and snarling with a gusto that brought me back to pro wrestling in the 80’s (honestly, they should have had someone taking bets in the audience). Tiffani Kenny steals a beautiful moment as eccentric collector of oddities Harry Thompson, and Alyssa Gosselin makes merry as aging matriarch Alma Lobb (lots of Lobbs in this show…lots and lots of Lobbs, oh yes). Hannah Gibson Fraser gets a marvellously manic monologue as a struggling Farm Mom, Alexis Scott as yet another Lobb gives an epic retelling of a cavalcade of town weddings, and Karina Milech gets a couple of memorable turns both as a travelling preacher and Clinton outsider Charlie Wilson.
This is a terrific joy of a show, with some especially impressive physical teamwork, mirroring the collective origins of the show itself. Toss in a few musical numbers, some from the original script, some added by director Massingham, and some amazing insights and windows into the realities of rural farming life that every Canuck needs to see, and you have just about the best all-around theatrical bet in town right now (and that’s saying something). I’d see this one again in a second, and I just might have Saturday night free, so we shall see. Kudos to Andy and the gang for a dynamite show (and yes, it’s fun for the whole family, even..!) that ends this OTS season with a bang. Or at least, a resounding Moo. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)