Well, it’s February. It’s freezing, it’s messy, it’s actually quite dreadful here in Ottawa. And that generally means one wonderful thing…Is it UNDERCURRENTS time again?
Yes, Ottawa’s curated festival that’s the bestival (no regrets) is back once again to dry off your winter boots and serve up a warm shot of fresh theatre to give your sad lives meaning again, if only for a couple of weeks. And what more can you ask for? It is, once again, a solid lineup put together by fest uberboss Pat Gauthier. And while I was a little thrown by the mandate shift to focus solely on shows from Ontario, I am confident our little landlocked province has more than enough talent to pack the lineup, and hopefully the houses as well.
Okay, ya know my #1 pick has gotta be THE PERSISTENT STAIN from Parry Riposte. Margo MacDonald and Geoff McBride make the ultimate Ottawa theatre super-team-up as a would-be legendary punk rock outfit trying to live up to their dreams. As a veteran of theatrical punk pioneers the Fuck-ups (Fuck the Government!!), I look forward to moshing out to this mighty work in progress, presented in the week one late-night PWYC slot.
COACH OF THE YEAR from the ubiquitous Pierre Brault is a real intriguer for me on this list. I mean, Brault is a pretty much assured sign of quality…shows of his like BLOOD ON THE MOON and PORTRAIT OF AN UNIDENTIFIED MAN are the stuff of theatrical dreams to me. But this one is a bit different. First, it’s not a one-manner like he is famed for, but a multi-hander starring Mary Ellis, Brian K.Stewart and Brad Long. Also it made it’s technical debut years back as part of one of New Theatre of Ottawa’s ‘Extremely Short New Play Festival’s, in ten minute form. And dang if I ain’t curious what happens in the other 70 minutes now! But with a cast and playwright like that, not to mention the gut-punch premise of a celebrated hockey coach accused of abusing a player, it’s hard to imagine anything short of rivetting.
There’s much more of course…and I’ll be there opening night to catch THE ARCHIVIST and LIGHT(LESS), and maybe crush a few tacos. But I asked Caitlin the Otter what SHE thought about the Undercurrents lineup, and naturally, she had a few thoughts too (which I happen to agree with). Take it away!
LA LA LAAAAA… the seaweed is always greener on somebody else’s plate, you dream about going… oh. Wait… what?!? Undercurrents isn’t a marine adventure festival?!? Well I’ll be … I mean… I knew that, I totally knew that *puts away mermaid flippers* *takes the dinglehopper out of her hair*
Ahem. As I was saying, Undercurrents is your chance to dive deep into the world of independent theatre. It’s the hottest festival in the coldest month (i.e. February) and a perfect way to warm our collective cold, dead hearts (2018 was hard, okay?).
I’ve been asked to select my top picks and I have to admit that it’s a tall order because there’s a lot of exciting, good stuff going on! You can’t go wrong with no matter what choice/s you make. That said, there are two shows that I’ll be making a special effort to catch:
Broken Tailbone by Carmen Aguirre. This Chilean woman has written over 20 plays and was the winner of CBC’s 2012 Canada Reads contest for her book, Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter. And yet, I am not at all familiar with her work. Shameful, I know. What better place to start than with a show about Latinx dance halls? The promise of a DJ, high energy, and sexy salsa dancing has me excited. I am not relishing the idea of audience participation but in honour of Lin-Manuel Miranda, I just might.
Tales of an Urban Indian. I hate OC Transpo and I hate it when strangers talk to me on the bus, yet I can’t help but be intrigued by this show. Firstly, Ottawa doesn’t get enough site-specific work so that’s always a unique experience to have. Secondly, as a nascent playwright, I’m always keen to see how strong storytellers put together a compelling one-person show (consider this research!). And lastly, I’ve been really digging some of the Indigenous art I’ve consumed recently (notably the Fringe show Rocko and Nakota, and Eden Robinson’s novels). So hop on board for what promises to be a wild ride (just not as wild as taking the #7 downtown from Carleton on a Friday night please!)
– Peace, love and soul, gang…see you at Undercurrents!
Kevin and Caitlin