It’s back! Oh thank Batman and everything that’s good in the world, SUBDEVISION is back! And this time around, it’s part of the Magnetic North Theatre Festival. Or as I like to think of it, this year Magnetic North is part of SubDevision.
If y’all missed this brilliant theatrical event last year, first of all, I’m so, so sorry. Second of all, here’s my late-night rambling writeup of the event, that took place in St.Paul’s Eastern United church in Sandy Hill. This year they’ve relocated to venerable Arts Court herself, but don’t imagine they’re cheating and actually using any of the theatre spaces for the shows, oh no. SubDevision is a collective evening of microburst theatre, this year featuring ten different companies creating short, site-specific works in various nooks and crannies of the wonderful Arts Court, never used as effectively as it will be during the three days duration of this mini-festival-within-a-festival. Shows start at 7 pm, with club SAW as the central meeting point where you shove and jostle your way through the throngs to sign up for the sometimes VERY limited-seating performances (Pro Tip #1: find out early which signups are where…check your program and match the numbers to the helpful volunteers with clipboards!). Unlike last year, I didn’t manage to catch everything in one evening this time around, but what I did see made life worth living again. Pardon if the following ‘reviews’ are somewhat light on content, but spoiling the experience is WAY too easy when talking about shows as short as this. You’ll thank me later.
First up was one of the many returning companies, Skeleton Key Theatre and THE CURATOR (Pro Tip #2: sign up quick as you can for this, the smallest audience show of the evening!), featuring Kate Smith with Karen Balcome, and taking place in a stairwell. Kate is just heartbreaking in this one, and it’s the first of many somewhat interactive shows of the night (nothing scary, I promise). Ignore the ambient noise and any random people on the stairs…it does happen…and just enjoy a wonderful performance in a terribly sweet, slightly oddball show.
Next was a visit to the kitchen with May Can Theatre and IT’S ABOUT OUR GOLDFISH, a show that requires a little bit of blind faith in performers Madeleine Boyes-Manseau, Tony Adams and Cory Thibert, but that trust WILL be rewarded, I promise. Maybe the best creative use of the space that I saw that night, and another heart-soaring show the likes of which you simply cannot experience sitting in a seat and watching from afar. This one has a small audience too, folks, so plan wisely.
After that, one I’d been especially looking forward to…MORRO AND JASP: LOST AND FOUND. Ottawa has desperately needed a visit from Toronto’s celebrated clown duo Morro and Jasp for some time now, and they don’t disappoint for a moment with their supply closet rendition of what they describe as the best play that ever was. It just may be.
Next (I think…everything was moving so fast and furious my memories might be a little confuzzled on which show came when. Nancy, am I getting this right??) we were guided along to Gruppo Rubato’s SEEDS. Co-star Nick Alain leads you through Arts Court (Pro Tip #3: rest when you can, because there’s plenty of standing and walking involved in SubDevision, and Arts Court is bigger than you think..!) to a wee tucked-away room where Tania Levy awaits, telling lovely, but somewhat dark tales about apples, and spiders, and a few riddles for good measure. Beautiful stuff, and an amazing souvenir.
Then came some new players for me, Fixt Point and Suitcase in Point with STOR(Y)AGE. A show incorporating technology, nostalgia, and a good hearty climb up to the attic for a wonderful experience with a wonderful performer (I’m honestly not sure what her name is right now). There should be more shows in attics.
Getting hungry and tired at this point, but still enough energy for a couple more shows. Which was good, because you’ll want a little energy for AGENDA by Cathy Gordon. With some help from her hard-working assistants, Cathy runs the Boardroom at Arts Court in an emergency meeting that you’d better be prepared for, or else..! (Pro Tip #4: no, really.) High octane interactive fun.
My last show for the evening was an utter delight, MEANWHILE, BACK IN THE BOX from Deluxe Hot Sauce. Taking place in the front kiosk, this jolly Christmas vignette from Kristina Watt, Doreen Taylor-Claxton, Annie Lefebvre and Sarah Finn has such a sneaky, subversive bent to it coupled with oodles of talent and ingenuity…impossible to describe, but unthinkable to miss (Pro Tip #5: jockey for position on this one…you WILL want as head-on a view as possible).
That was just about enough incredible, unmissable theatre for me for one night (well, not really, but I WAS pretty hungry). Stick around the Festival bar after the show for a sweet afterparty, drinks and hot dogs until good’n’late. SubDevision might have actually raised the bar from last year, which is impressive as HELL. I’m already making plans to return tonight to visit the shows I missed. Ottawa Stilt Union, Counterpoint Players, STO Union…I’m comin’ for ya!! Until then…peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)