If any of you have been following my life for the last few days, you know that I really, REALLY needed something to do to take my mind off my troubles. And even though my woes are theatrically based, it still figgers that with a one-track mind like mine, it would be theatre that helped make them go away, at least for a few hours…whatever works, right?
I lucked out and found out about a show only a day or two before it went up, making it the first new production to launch in Ottawa 2014 (that I know of, and I know very little, folks), and at the cozy little Avalon studio in the Glebe at that. A pleasure to return to that lovely space, so after milling about for a few hours after work, I made my way up to the show, and was greeted by a mightily packed house indeed. In January? Ottawa, sometimes you surprise me in good ways.
After making my way to one of the few remaining seats, I settled in for the start of Joan Macleod’s SHAPE OF A GIRL, being put up here by Cart Before the Horse Theatre and director Paul Griffin. The company’s mission statement is to explore the ‘authentic teenage voice’, and they achieve their goal in damn-near terrifying fashion in this show. Based around a real life 1997 event where a young girl was bullied, beaten and murdered, this show follows tough-talking Braidie (Megan Carty) as she argues with her Mother, hangs with her clique, and joins in the fun as her galpals make the merciless teasing of hanger-on Sophie their life’s work. It all starts off so innocently, really, until alpha gal Adrienne decides that someone in the group just NEEDS to be the target of all the scorn. Poor Sophie draws the short straw, and what follows is a dismal, rather horrifying and painfully real look into the classist world of teenage high school girls, a hostile microcosm that makes gang warfare look like Sunday school at times.
Paul Griffin makes full use of the great Avalon studio space with some solid staging, and occasionally bloody clever touches. Briadie is followed throughout the story by an omnipresent chorus (Shawna Della-Ricca, Christa Anguelova, Caitie Campo, Laurel Moyse, Noah Booniv, Jordyn Lewis, Keira O’Shea and Nicole Ormerod) who, aside from embodying her classmates and other characters, also each become Sophie at a different age, from 8 to 15. It’s a great flourish, and they do a fantastic job, really bringing a richness to the show. And Megan Carty (who I caught a couple years back as Ophelia in Kanata Theatre’s ROMEO AND JULIET, I do believe) is just a stunner as Braidie, pulling off a seriously impressive performance in this challenging, 80 minute show. This year has gotten off to a solid star, show-wise, and I’ve already got my first pick for fav’rit performance of 2014.
This is a tough show and no fooling…bullying is a trigger issue for a lot of us (I know I found my knuckles clenching at some of the scenes), and the team pulls it off in style without compromising any of the nitty-gritty. Thought-provoking and all that good jazz…check it out. I’m glad I made it out…even if I did leave without realizing there was an opening night reception that I totally missed out on. Heads-up next time guys, geez! I like to mooch as much as the next guy, after all. But seriously, thanks for the awesome distraction…I needed that. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)