Another day, another day at UNDERCURRENTS 2015. So I’m already calling it a good day. Even better because this was a day with two brand new shows for me…one an Ottawa premiere, and one on it’s last of only two days in town (apologies for not getting it on opening night you guys), and both exceedingly well worth it. Check it out…
First up was Evalyn Parry‘s SPIN, a terribly effective and delightful ode to two of the loveliest things around…Bicycles and Feminism. Who knew they went so well together? Well, Evalyn Parry for one, who takes the center stage for this semi-musical theatrical love letter to the history of the Bicycle and its inextricable link to Women’s emancipation in North America, under the direction of Ruth Madoc-Jones. With the accompaniment of musician Brad Hart on the bicycle (not a joke…Brad expertly uses an actual bicycle onstage, tricked out as a musical instrument in ways that positively MUST be experienced first hand to be fully appreciated), Parry takes us through time to the days when women first took to the streets on these revolutionary contraptions, long skirts and corsets and all, and just what implications that had for the future. It culminates in the epic tale of the clearly superhuman Annie Londenderry, who in 1895 said ‘Fuck It’ and took off for over a year to ride around the world on her lonesome in a tale that makes me feel very much like the wimp that I am.
Another musical entry in this years festival (with the Peptides’ LOVE+HATE), SPIN is a goddamn wonderful storytelling adventure, with our charismatic guide Parry leading us from era to era with a wink and a song, aided by a series of enjoyable images on a backscreen projection courtesy of designer Beth Kates. Bring some extra cash to the show when you come…you WILL want to pick up a CD or two on your way out. Beautiful, engaging and inspiring…time for me to finally fix my own bike up this year, methinks. I feel a ride coming on. And don’t miss Parry’s directorial work soon at the NAC Studio, when OBAABERIMA hits in March!
A pause then, as the good guys at Dominion City Brewing treated us theatregoers to a free Beer sampling in the lobby in between shows. A little cramped, but a tasty, buzzy time for sure. And I say ‘a little cramped’ because the studio, normally the Undercurrents bar area, was off limits just now as it was being set up for the final show of the night, and a very special event indeed.
That show was MARATHON, all the way to Arts Court from Tel Aviv for a unique performance piece that seriously lives up to its name. Created and directed by artist and choreographer Aharona Israel, this in-the-round show features performers Ilya Domanov, Merav Dagan and Gal Shamal in near constant motion, ever running, leaping, dancing, ducking and running again in a unique blend of dance and theatre that’s exhausting just to watch, much less perform. Marrying several different tracks (get it?) of narrative as each of our protagonists experiences their own version of what it means to them to be Israeli, the show goes from gorgeously manic to disturbingly intimate without any word of warning. And while my knowledge of geopolitics may not be sharp enough to have picked up on every allusion in the script, I was still in seventh Heaven during this show…I felt like I was watching a whole new form of theatre being created, and I loved it. And my crappy old cellphone even came in handy!
Sorry again that Ottawa audiences don’t have any more chances to catch this show, as I believe it is off to Vancouver next for the Chutzpah! Festival….any readers out west, don’t miss out! For myself, I’m honoured I got the chance to catch this innovative and energizing piece of theatre history…I won’t soon forget it.
Another day at Undercurrents down…time is running out, but there’s still lots of great theatre left to catch (with May Can’s tantalizing JERK IT series starting up tonight too!), so catch it while you can! Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid (and Winston)