I had an interesting storytelling double-bill planned at Studio Leonard Beaulne on my 4th day at Ottawa Fringe 2018. Mostly by accident, but that’s a pretty lovely accident if you ask me. The studio is one of, if not my fav’rit Fringe venues (will be sad to see it go in 2019) and there’s a great groundswell of storytelling shows at this years festival that’s hard not to get caught up in. And my second show (following Gerard Harris’ wonderful BANNED IN THE USA) was one I’d missed in workshop format here in Ottawa some time ago, so I was pleased to get the chance to see it here at Fringe.
Created by and starring Marta Singh, THE GEOGRAPHY TEACHERS ORDERS is an almost hypnotically compelling tale of life growing up in Argentina after the Falklands war, as democracy struggled to take a tentative foothold in the wake of a collapsed dictatorship. Into this high-stakes scenario we’re introduced to our storyteller’s grade ten Geography class, a typical collection of cool kids, misfits and weirdos that should feel familiar to anyone who ever went to school. The kids have mostly lived free of any real knowledge of the political climate they’d been living under, just concentrating on their studies and their classmates. Until the Geography Teacher of the title arrives, and a curious but potent battle of wills begins, presenting itself as an eerie parallel to the outer strife in the country itself. And while I’m pretty hilariously far from an expert of Argentinian political history, I am acutely aware that the struggle between authoritarianism and democracy is an unpleasantly relatable theme in all of our lives right now.
Marta Singh has an exquisitely graceful and controlled presence onstage, almost unnerving in the way she moves, practically rooted in one spot for the entire performance. Using her hands, words and even posture as tools in her storytelling arsenal, she rather magically creates a class full of memorable characters, and a villainess worthy of Disney. It’s a rigorous performance, and the work Marta did with dramaturg Emily Pearlman, as well as Lola Ryan and director Jennifer Cayley clearly paid off, accentuating her obvious natural talent and unique storytelling gifts. Hats off to for some spiffy lighting work from Kat Wong that gives the drama an extra push in all the right places. This is a show that wraps you up in its own world and immerses you whole, and that is a rare thing indeed. You won’t hear words like ‘solidarity’ the same way again for along time after seeing this one. Nor will you eyes remain closed to the ever-present ‘machinery of fear’…but Marta seems to have discovered a pretty fantastic and beautiful weapon to combat it. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin R (and Baby G)
PS check out the rest of Geography Teachers Orders showtimes and ticket info HERE!