Posts Tagged ‘john doucet’

Never Mind the Bollocks, here’s the Shakespeare

In Company of Fools, Theatre on September 5, 2013 at 8:55 pm

So, HAL AND FALSTAFF.  Let’s get right to it this time, hey, because I’m at home, stir crazy as all get-out, and just started dancing by myself to FREAKY STYLEY for the first time in about a dozen years.  I’m pumped, folks, and ready to make some theatrical writeup magick!

Now, maybe even old-school Red Hot Chili Peppers isn’t completely apropos background music for this post, as the production from A Company of Fools, under the loving guidance of Queen Margo MacDonald adapting and directing, is a little more late 70’s punk in its tone, and I couldn’t love it more for it. Set in a dingy, cluttered attic, our gang of six (Katie Ryerson, Matthew John Lundvall, Simon Bradshaw, Geoff McBride, John Doucet and Melanie Karin Brown) filter in, decked out in glorious punk fashion and sprawling about the set like they honestly couldn’t care less that any of us are even there.  Until McBride finds the crown, and then our rabble takes it upon themselves to begin telling the tale of Henry (or Hal, or Harry, or whatever Shakespeare felt like calling him that minute…played by a splendidly wigged Katie Ryerson) and his youthful collaboration with fiction’s greatest rogue, Falstaff (Lundvall, reprising his role from MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, now with about 200 lbs of extra fat suit for good measure).  The other players take turns filling out the sprawling cast of characters that make up this tale, culled from several of Billy Shakes’ historical plays, from Richard II to Henry V.  Telling this story is no mean feat, so it isn’t surprising that Margo is what, the first person since Orson Welles to attempt it?

Okay, maybe not, but as long as I’m on the subject RELEASE THIS ON  DVD ALREADY!!!

Okay, maybe not, but as long as I’m on the subject  RELEASE THIS ON DVD ALREADY!!!

The punk conceit works like a fucking charm in this, the sprawling tale of Henry’s path from rebellious layabout to monarch.  Falstaff, naturally, is far more constant that wee Hal, and remains a cowardly good-for-nothing right to the end, and we love him for it.  The moments of incredible storytelling in this show are too numerous to describe, and it coalesces into a whole that is one of the most satisfying pieces of Shakespeare you’ll ever be lucky enough to see.  Geoff McBride’s King Henry IV is absolutely out-fucking-standing, and I almost stood up and applauded after one of his final speeches.  Simon Bradshaw continues to amaze as one of the most versatile actors around, and getting some of the biggest laughs in the show as a lisping clergyman.  Melanie Karin Brown makes for a tremendously fun Scottish King AND courtesan both, while John Doucet scores some tough guy points as Hal’s nemesis, the brash prince Henry Percy.  Casting Katie Ryerson as Prince Hal was a bit of genius indeed, and she makes a lean and unpredictable heir apparent, playing marvellously against the wunnerful Matthew John Lundvall, an even better Falstaff here than in WINDSOR.  The childish joy of the character, all the disappointment and the heartbreak awaiting…it’s all there, and it’s all good.

Lundvall and Ryerson as Falstaff and Hal, courtesy of Justin van Leeuwen.

Lundvall and Ryerson as Falstaff and Hal, courtesy of Justin van Leeuwen.

Major truckloads of love to Vanesa Imeson, who handled the filthy/gorgeous costumes and set for this one, as well as Jess Preece for some clearly supernatural work assembling those killer props.  This is a darker direction for the Fools (and indoor to boot), and I’m so very glad they went there.  My only wish for this production is that it could have actually been a little MORE punk…I kept waiting for some of the characters to strut onstage sporting a Sid Vicious or Joey Ramone accent, but that might just be my roots showing.  At any rate, go see this show or you’re dumb as a sack of hammers, is what I’m saying.  It plays the rest of this week at the Gladstone , then hits Shenkman and Centrepointe for a week apiece. Get going, or don’t show your face around here again, get me?  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

A Merry Time in Windsor

In Company of Fools, Theatre on July 23, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Well, it took me just over three weeks but I finally made it.  In my defense, I’m often pretty slow out of the gate when it comes to seeing Ottawa’s touring park shows…They’re just about the only game in town for two solid months, and I can’t resist the subconscious urge to stretch them out as much as I can.  But I DID try and see this one a couple weeks ago, I swear!  All I can say is Glabar Park is NOT where google maps told me it was (although apparently I was close).

But fortunately, even a dim stooge like myself can find Strathcona Park on a clear day, ad the weather was poifect this Monday for a trip down Laurier to where A Company of Fools were celebrating the second anniversary of their tenth anniversary of summer Shakespeare shows with their latest, THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR.  Directed by the ever wonderful Catriona Leger and featuring Billy Shakes’ most memorable rogue sir John Falstaff at his bawdy best, this underseen bit of bard was prime fodder for the Fools treatment.  Thee show features a giddily talented cast of familiar faces like Simon Bradshaw, Melanie Karin Brown, Katie Ryerson, John Doucet and Geoff McBride, along with first-time fool Matthew John Lundvall, subbing in as Falstaff himself for the originally-cast Chris Ralph, who has gone off to open a new theatre school or some such.

Our tale finds randy sir John newly arrived in Windsor, and already robbing people blind and trying to seduce their wives.  Specifically, mistresses Page and Ford (Melanie Karin-Brown and Katie Ryerson), who immediately see through his attempts and plot some serious revenge.  The only hitch is Ford’s jealous husband (John Doucet), who adopts a disguise to infiltrate Falstaff’s inner circle and glean the truth, although he somehow manages to get it wrong more often than not.  Meanwhile, the Pages’ young daughter Anne (Katie Ryerson again) is being promised to two highly unsuitable suitors, dull Slender (Melanie again) and fire-tempered Doctor Caius (Simon Bradshaw), while her true love Fenton (Doucet again, stealing the show in a Keanu Reeves impression that HAS to be seen) is shut out.  Amidst this, duels are nearly fought (between Caius and nervous Parson Evans, aka Geoff McBride), messages are passed between Falstaff and the scheming wives via robust Ms. Quickly (McBride again), fairies are summoned, beatings are given and merry is indeed had by all.

Mistress Page (Katie Ryerson) gets some unwanted attention from Falstaff (Matthew John Lundvall).  Pic by Andrew Alexander.

Mistress Ford (Katie Ryerson) gets some unwanted attention from Falstaff (Matthew John Lundvall). Pic by Andrew Alexander.

It almost feel redundant to write up a Fools park show, as the gang has it down to a pretty awesome science (or magic, more like) by now.  Plenty of amazing and hilarious character work from the Foolish entourage to entertain even the most jaded audience…I dearly loved Melanie Karin Brown’s dull-witted Slender, and Katie Ryerson’s jittery old Justice Shallow, among their other great moments.  Simon Bradshaw continues to be absolute comic gold on any stage…his Doctor Caius was a serious highlight, and I use ‘serious’ in the loosest sense here.Geoff McBride alternates nicely between upright Evans and borderline floozy Quickly.  And Matthew Lundvall makes a memorable Falstaff, cowardly and boastful often in the same breath.  All of this talent under the direction of Miz Leger is almost too good to be true, but here we are.  There are tons of high points in this absolute sure-fire crowd pleaser of a show, and it’s easy to see why the Fools are enjoying the longevity they so richly deserve.  Ottawa is lucky to have this gang, and the next time they’re in your neighbourhood, for Heaven’s sake stop on by.  Check their website for parks and dates, you still have plenty of time left to get in on the fun.  But don’t dawdle, because you might want to see it a second time.  It’s worth it.  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

UnderCurrents 2013: LADIES OF THE LAKE

In GCTC, Theatre, Undercurrents on February 7, 2013 at 6:07 pm

Another day, another lineup of Undercurrents premieres to watch and dig into?  Oh, February, you do send off mixed signals. Do you love me with your theatre, or hate me with your freezing cold?  I guess I’ll take the former, in an unusual bout of positivity…I do love me some Undercurrents after all (tho it could warm up ANY time now…just a little, deal?).
So after a fine and full opening night, with SKIN, BREAD, THE PUBLIC SERVANT and pizza to top it all off, it was back to the GCTC studio at Holland and Wellington last night for two more shows, including the second world premiere of the festival.  This one, from GCTC company-in-residence Skeleton Key, was the long awaited LADIES OF THE LAKE.  The company, formed by local superwomen Kate Smith (who stars) and Catriona Leger (who directs), has been working on this piece for a good long while now, and I was on pins and needles (figuratively, not literally, in case you were worried) waiting to see what they had come up with.

Inspired by the Arthurian legend of the Lady of the Lake, LADIES stars Kate Smith as Vivienne, a wandering young woman plagued by violent visions, who is drawn to a particularly creepy lake as a result.  There she meets Ambrose (show co-creator John Doucet, sporting a fine toque and doubling as set designer), a smooth-talking drifter with a practiced air of mystery. Things quickly take a turn for the supernatural when the even MORE mysterious woman (Dilys Ayafor) from Vivienne’s visions appears.  Seems she and Ambrose have issues from way, way back, and Vivienne is now unwittingly caught up in the middle of it.  And as this is steeped in legend and myth, it isn’t likely that everyone is walking away happily ever after.

photo: Lisa L'Heureux

photo: Lisa L’Heureux

LADIES takes a very theatrical approach to telling this story, using a great deal of physicality and movement, combined with song (an old nursery rhyme is used repeatedly to great effect) and a sweet Steven Lafond soundtrack.  The John Doucet set (John Dou-Set?) is a very evocative piece of backdrop, and the actors put it to good use, stalking across, over and through it.  Dilys Ayafor made a kick-ass Fury in the Ottawa Theatre School production of THE EUMENIDES last year, and she continues to impress here as the unnamed but imposing antagonist (or is she..?) of the piece.  On the whole, I’m afraid the story never really sucked me in…Vivienne, while handled nicely by the great Kate Smith, didn’t have much to offer as a heroine.  And I wasn’t sure if we were going for a modern or ancient story, or if that even mattered.  Then again, as I repeatedly point out in these pages, I sometimes suck at imagery.  And the strong performances and eerie/cool mood and lighting more than make this show worth the trip.  I’d also like to make a shout-out to costume and make-up artiste Vanessa Imeson, who has some spectacular looks on display here.  Skeleton Key is off to a strong start, and I expect great things from them down the road.  As it is, I still got one more show to write about before I sleep, so I’d better get on with it.  Next up: HIP HOP SHAKESPEARE LIVE MUSIC VIDEOS!  Peace, love and soul,

Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)

2010 – Big Stoopid End of Year Post!

In Theatre on December 30, 2010 at 12:55 am

This has been a rough, dreary end-of-month, no fooling!  I had not realized just how much I had come to define myself by theatre, and this blog, in so short a time.  At least, not until I had NOTHING TO GOD-DAMNED WELL BLOG ABOUT. Seriously, someone needs to start running shows over Xmas holidays, just for me.  I’d appreciate that, everyone.  Although this HAS given me a chance to start watching LOST and UGLY BETTY, helping me fulfill the Norte-Americano dream of becoming a couch potato.

But, all good things must come to an end, and if you think this year was ‘good’, then that cliche now applies, because it’s over!  I for one had a good time, some GREAT times, a few absolutely horrible…so, a year.  Here are a few personal notabilities:

Holy  shit, I’ve started a blog! Following in the footsteps of one famousactressNancyKenny, I started up this here ridiculous amateur theatre chud, something that was originally only going to be a series of reviews/notes on Facebook about the Ottawa Fringe.  Instead, I’ ve given my sad little life some flicker of ongoing, contrived meaning.  Yay me!

Holy shit, I went on a roadtrip! To Toronto, specifically, to see and review the Summerworks festival thereabouts.  It was a grand, if highly ill time, I saw great shows, got noticed, and finally met Emily Pearlman and Nick DiGaetano.

Fucking Hell, I broke someone’s heart. It was the worst thing I’ve ever done.  No one should ever be allowed to do that.  Especially me.  Sorry, Jammy.  You deserved a lot better.

Holy shit, I’m volunteering for a theatre! The Great Canadian Theatre Company, to be precise, and I’m having a blast.  At this writing, I’ve served seven shifts (counting envelope-stuffing day), eagerly awaiting the next show.

Holy Shit, I took acting lessons! Over at the venerable Ottawa School of Speech and Drama, under the tutelage of theatrical Yoda Barry Karp.  Met some great people, had the most fun I’ve ever had in a classroom, and am counting the days until level two begins.

Holy shit, I have Nancy Kenny’s cat! The adorable Winston the cat, my roommate since October now, and here he will remain until our very own littlest hobo (Nancy Kenny) can finally settle down somewheres.  He took his Xmas travels like a champ, by the way.

So there’s the short version of 2010…how about the long version?  Thought you’d never ask…here for history’s sake is a complete list of all the shows I done took in during this calendar year:

6 Characters in Search of an Author
7 (x1) Samurai (2)
After Shock
Airport Security
Anatomy of a Broken Love Affair
the Andrews Brothers
Archy and Mehitabel
Art DeXo
As You Like It
Beer Tent: Reflux
Big Face
Billy Stutter: an Irish Play
Biographies of the Dead and Dying
Blood. Claat
Breaking Down in America
Burlesque Unzipped
Cactus: the Seduction
Countries Shaped Like Stars
Dale Beaner and the Turtle Boy
a Day in the Life of Miss Hiccup
the Death of Tybalt
Deliver’d From Nowhere
‘Dentity Crisis
the Duck Wife (2)
Educating Rita
Every Job I’ve Ever Had
a Fistful of Flowers
a Flea in her Ear
Grievous Angel
les Guerriers
Grouch on a Couch
Hamlet (solo)
Haunted Hillbilly
the Innocents
Inspecting Carol
It’s A Wonderful Life
It’s Just a Stage
It’s Raining in Barcelona
Jamaica Farewell
the Kreutzer Sonata
the Last Goddamned Performance Piece (2)
the List
Love in the Time of Harlequin
the Man Who Went to Work One Day and was Eaten by a Bear (reading)
Mechanicsville Monologues II
Me Happy
Men Telling Stories
a Midsummer Nights Dream
Miss Caledonia (2)
Mixing Boal: Kitchen of the Oppressed
Molotov Circus
Multinational gRape Corporations
My Narrator
Not the Good Kind of Animal Attraction
the Peter ‘n Chris Show! (2)
Phone Whore
the Pig of Happiness
the Prisoner’s Dilemma
Purely Cabaret (2)
Redheaded Stepchild
Red Noses
Ride the Cyclone (2)
Romeo and Juliet (Salamander)
the Roof Top Guy
Sacred Sites in Suburbia
the Sad and Cautionary Tale of Smack-Headed Peter
the Saddest Girl in the World
Say Ginger Ale
Shakespeare’s Interactive Circus
Someone for Everyone: an Unromantic Comedy
the Sorting
the Sputniks (2)
Sweet Little Nothings
Swimming in the Shallows
They All Do it
This is a Play
Time to Put my Socks On
TransCanada ‘69
the Turn of the Screw
Twelfth Night
Underneath it All
the Visitor
We Won’t Pay! We Won’t Pay! (reading)
Who You Callin’ Sweetheart?
Word! Sound! Powah!
You Are Here


-My Summer Crush Improv
-Fringe Festival Secret Cabaret Show
-Taxi Stand Jam
-Wrecking Ball

Not too bad for a relative theatre newbie like my own self, if I do say.  although I admit I got off to a slow start (I’m SO fixing that next year, but more on that later).  And in no particular order, here now are a few of my fav’rit things from that list (note:  not ‘best’, just some of my personal picks.  I am by no means qualified to decide what is ‘best’ or not, and please never, ever trust anyone who says they are.  They are lying to you.)  With that in mind, here are some of my…


– Bash’d – A perfectly, insanely entertaining gay musical rap-opera from Chris Craddock and Nathan Cuckow.

– A Midsummer Night’s Dream – A Company of Fools show how it’s done in the great outdoors, with a brilliant cast and a hep, funny take on Shakespeare’s faerie fling.
– A Fistful of Flowers – the Baltimore annex Theatre crashes Emily Pearlman’s living room for the best theatre nite of the year, with their must-see DIY show about love and revenge in the mythical west.
Airport Security – Gruppo Rubato puts on a seriously underrated show at the GCTC studio about the perils of modern travelling.  Hilarious and dark all at once.
Vimy – I saw it five times, I’m NOT gonna put it on the list?  Thumpingly awesome WWI drama with a killer cast, that shattered some records for the GCTC and earned every penny.
I – David Hersh’s world premiere at the Gladstone was supercool and fresh, with an aspiring writer clashing with her idol and a cast of thousands (well, almost).
The Sad and Cautionary Tale of Smack-Headed Peter – an impressive, filthy, edgy modern fable about a new kind of messiah along the Thames.  Dirty, epic poetry.

Twelfth Night – The Ottawa Theatre School teams with some keen pros to deliver a funny, sexy telling of one of Zombie Bill’s funnier bits.

The Peter’n’Chris Show – Shit, that was funny.  DAMN.

Blood.Claat/Word! Sound! Powah! – Two from human dynamo Dbi young, I caught the first at GCTC and the second at Summerworks.  Powerful pieces of Jamaicana indeed, from a positively inspired performer.
Time to Put my Socks on – Alan Shain tells it like it is in his original show about one disabled man’s quest for love and sex, and other good things.
Hamlet (solo) – Raoul Bhaneja performs the entirety of Zombie Bill’s epic, alone, no sets, no effects, and it couldn’t be more mesmerizing.
The Sputniks – Elison Zasko made me cry.  All I’m saying.
7 (x1) Samurai – David Gaines gives a solo interpretation of SEVEN SAMURAI.  And it works.  Holy hell, I love theatre.
Redheaded Stepchild – from Summerworks, Johnnie Walker’s amazing show about an awkward, effete ginger teen, his flamboyant alter-ego, and clueless stepmom.
Aomega – There were, like, 7 people in attendance at this gorgeous drop of insanity from Daniel Nimmo at the Ottawa Fringe, about the trifold multidimensional consciousness Aomega.  I maintain that everyone else was scared.

FAV’RIT MUSICALS (besides BASH’D, cause I already mentioned it):

Ride the Cyclone – Atomic Vaudeville tears up Summerworks with a twisted and brilliant tale of a deceased coir singing their final songs.  I still heart poor, headless Jane Doe.
Haunted Hillbilly – A wonderful show from Sidemart Theatrical Grocery about fame, country music and vampires, featuring Greg Kramer (also in 12th night) as the villainous couturier Nudie.
Countries Shaped Like Stars – I saw it again at Summerworks this year, it counts!  I will never, ever get tired of this show.  Eager , tho, for their newest LIVE FROM THE BELLY OF A WHALE.  Go Mi Casa!
Nativity – My first proper show at the NAC in several decades was a delight, with everything from singing angels to singing coyotes, with many other singing things in between.
Grievous Angel – A simple, gorgeous stage show about the life of legendary country figure Gram Parsons, and his protoge Emmylou Harris.  Their ‘Cash on the Barrelhead’ was a grand moment.


Simon Bradshawthe Man who went to Work one day and got Eaten by a Bear, Airport Security, Swimming in the Shallows – Maybe the best pokerface in Ottawa theatre, he’s got angry/funny down to a science.  Do NOT miss THIS IS A RECORDING at Undercurrents, folks.
Garret QuirkDeath of Tybalt, Romeo and Juliet, Mechanicsville Monologues II – His explosive Tybalt was the big reason I caught Salamander’s R&J, and his piece in MMII brought down the house.  Expect great things!
Jeff CulbertArchy and Mehitabel – Had to mention gentleman Jeff, and his hypnotic turn in A&M from the Fringe.  Elegant and masterful.
Alex McCooeyeMe Happy, Nativity – Two distinct, utterly wonderful comic performances have me very much hoping I get to see this cat in something else, and soon.
Richard GelinasA Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s Interactive Circus, Swimming in the Shallows – A serious actor with a very hysterical streak in him.  How to steal scenes while hiding behind a newspaper?  Talk to this guy.
Raoul BhanejaHamlet (solo) – Too impressive not to mention it again.  He did HAMLET, for god’s sake.
John KoensgenHeroes, Educating Rita, St.Nicholas, Blackbird – Volume alone would put the killer on this list, but BLACKBIRD nailed it.  Fucking wonderful.

John Doucet/Kevin LoringVimy – Pardon my singling any of the lads out, but Kevin and John’s work as not just their two leads, but each others central past figures, was a perfect joy to watch.  Even again and again. 🙂


Emmanuelle ZeesmanAndrews Brothers, Shakespeare’s Interactive Circus, I – What can you say about the Zees?  Whip-smart, funny, AND she can tap-dance.  ‘Nuff said.
Nancy KennyThe Last Goddamned Performance Piece, Shakespeare’s Interactive Circus, We won’t Pay! We won’t Pay! – Winston, did you put this one in here..?  Fine, fine.  She DID have me laughing out loud before the doors were even closed in TLGDPP, and pretty much at will after that in whatever she did.  Yeah, she makes the list.
Jenny DavidL’Ascenseur, You Are Here – A Visitorium fave, wee Jenny David is one of those ‘up’n’comers’ who’s impressed me twice in a row now, and I’m hoping she goes for the hat trick sometime soon.  One to watch, trust me.
Dbi YoungBlood.Claat, Word! Sound! Powah! – An unstoppable theatrical force.  You should bust down walls for the chance to see one of her shows, they are jolts of awesome straight to the heart.
Danielle SavoieDeath of Tybalt, Romeo and Juliet, Red Noses – A memorably hilarious turn as Rosalind in TYBALT, followed by a twistedly sinister ‘Raven’ in the great RED NOSES.   Supahcool.
Kate SmithAirport Security, Turn of the Screw, We won’t Pay! We won’t Pay! – Harried high-flying comic housewife or potentially unstable victorian-era nanny, Kate Smith pretty much does it all and makes it look easy.
Kelly RigoleThey All Do It, Mechanicsville Monologues II – Her bit of Commedia in THEY ALL DO IT was a joy to behold, and her burlesque numbers in MMMII weren’t too shabby, neither.  Have I mentioned about THIS IS A RECORDING yet?  It’s already selling out guys, for serious.
Catriona Leger Airport Security, Someone for Everyone – The funniest lady in O-town?  Could very well be.


There’s a lot more I could mention…fav’rit venues?  Carleton Tavern and Emily Pearlman’s living room, for  start.   Fav’rit directors?  While I’m still not too technically savvy on such things, I have to give the great Pat Gauthier a nod for his multiple and awesome shows.   Fav’rit Writers?  Howsabout good ole Donnie Laflamme?  Or David Hersh?  Fav’rit moments?  Too many to count.  Don’t no one be offended if you’re not on this silly list, it’s safe to say that if I saw your show, I thank you, and want to see more.  This is just a small (really!) bit of love from me to all of you theatre peeps.   Thanks for, y’know, changing my life and all.  And with that, here’s a brief look forward, with my very own NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS for 2011:

#1 – SEE MORE STUFF.  I’m going for a minimum 130 shows in the next year, not counting repeats.  Think I can do it?  I want to make a special effort to see more community theatre.

#2 – STOP BEING BORED. There’s no reason for it.  I’ve already been practicing my new modal operation format: INPUT//OUTPUT//DEATH.  Here’s hoping I do it right!

#3 – 211 IN 2011 – I’ve been off my movie watching game, and want to correct that.  So on top of those live shows, I want to see at least 211 new movies (or old ones with new commentary tracks) in the new year.  I’ll keep you updated.  But gotta nourish other senses, so…

#4 – READ MORE. – I’ve been WAY off my reading game, and that has to stop. And I especially want to start reading some plays, too.  Again, I’ll keep you updated (I know, you’re waiting on fucking pins and needles).

#5 – ANOTHER THEATRICAL ROADTRIP – Maybe SUMMERWORKS again, maybe someplace a little further…I’ve been eyeing the Victoria fringe for a while now.  Someone just tell me where Jayson MacDonald’s gonna be.

There’s more, but they don’t really belong here, and this has been going on for WAY too long without me being drunk.  So hats off to all those amazing people who got their shit together, put it on a stage and made me say ‘wow’, because you rocked my world.  To my fellow theatre fans, keep on showing up, because that’s the only way it works.  And whoever you are, thanks for reading, drop a comment now and then, because as far as communication with the outside world goes, this is pretty much my big attempt right here.  Help the experiment along!

And, by the way, CRUSH IMPROV at the Elmdale on January 3rd, and COMPANY OF FOOLS Twelfth Night Fundraiser at NAC 4th stage on the 5th.  Be there, yah?  We’ll have a laugh.  From all of us here at the Visitorium, aka me and Winston the cat, peace, love and soul.  See you next year, your pal,


Here We Are Again

In GCTC on December 7, 2010 at 4:05 am

It’s been playing for almost a month now.  I figure at least 5000 people have attended thus far.  I’ve volunteered for it four times, seen it FIVE times, and most every showing has been damn near sold out.  The first ever joint production between Ottawa’s theatrical heavyweights the National Arts Center and the Great Canadian Theatre Company seems to be, by any measurement, a wild success.  And now, with less than one week left in its celebrated run, I’m finally going to get off my lazy ass and write a few, likely completely unnecessary words, about the show.  About VIMY.

…hey, did anyone else notice that?  I wrote an introduction!  Wow, it feels like I never do that.  I’m really growing.

But I digress!  It was one month ago tomorrow, as I write this, that I first saw VIMY at the dress rehearsal.  Like everyone else, I was pretty excited about it.  Not that I knew much about the piece, the brainchild of one Vern Thiessen, other than it was about the legendary battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917, and that Nick DiGaetano was in it.  The Visitorium has quite a soft spot  for the MiCasa kids, so I was all gung ho for this one…although I doubted if I was actually in for COUNTRIES SHAPED LIKE STARS: THE WAR YEARS.  And I wasn’t (although there IS a song!).

No, VIMY is something else entirely.  A war story about stories, about people, about a country fighting for identity, all of that romantic jazz and more.  It starts off in a hospital in France, just after the epic assault on Hill 145 by some 20,000 canuck troops, where we meet four men, broken and mangled, and the angel watching over them.  Together, they form a neat cross-section of Canada, far from home and seemingly getting more lost by the second.

DiGaetano is Will, who comes off initially like a somewhat brash everyman but goes on to become perhaps the most complex character in the whole story.  Kevin Loring shines as Mike Goodstriker, an indian aching to prove his valour.  John Doucet is JP, an enthusiastic Quebecer shaken literally to his core by his experience.  Jon Elliot Koensgen (yes, son of John ‘Killer’ Koensgen…good theatrical stock indeed!) is the soft spoken Winnipegger Sid, who just wants a little bit of warmth.

Watching over them is bluebird Clare, played with palpable joy by Katie Swift.  Clare is kind of the glue that hold VIMY together as she tends to the soldiers and hears their stories (Clare loves stories, you see…), even as she searches for the ending to her own.  It seems the war has separated her from her love Laurie, played by James Stuart MacDonald, and she yearns to reconnect with him even as he almost literally haunts the show, appearing eerily through the backdrop, overtop and off to the side, always near but never there.  And although Clare seems determined not to let the war break her spirit, the relentless tide of it seems determined to wear her down.  It smacks its lips, holds its breath…and when it finally strikes, there’s nothing anyone can do.

VIMY is a wondrous piece, and I can merrily say that in five viewings not one part of it ever got stale.  Linda Moore directs with a cinematic hand, and the script by Thiessen wrings gasps and sobs as easily as it does laughs.  From a terrific scene in which our bedridden fighters verbally spar over the latest hockey news from back home, to evocative flashbacks detailing who these men, and Clare, were back home.    And the battle itself…yeah, it’s fucking stunning.  Starting off with the most amazing training sequence this side of 36th CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN, and moving into each man’s experience in the massive, meticulous, and almost incomprehensible assault on Vimy Ridge that day in 1917.  Horror and tragedy become the order of the day.  The lines between heroism, cowardice, and just plain luck become almost hopelessly blurred, and you realize  that these men, men our country to this day places on a pedestal higher than any other, really are that…just men.  And that the story of Vimy Ridge is more than one story…and can never fully be told.  Just fragments.  But what fragments.

So, basically, I’m glad I saw VIMY five damn times, I am.  It’s all stuck in here now, and it ain’t never gonna leave.  The way Katie Swift says Shubenacadie, the way Nick DiGaetano asks (nay, demands) what you’re gonna do day off.  Kevin Loring seeing a sky of fire (twice), and John Doucet getting the show of his life (better even than in Montreal!).  James Stuart MacDonald struggling to pronounce Place Jacques Cartier (and honestly, that should get bigger laughs than it does), and Jon Koensgen looking for somewhere he can really just belong…just be.  Just be WARM.  Maybe Bora Bora…

So hats off, ladies and gents, for a fine show.  From the cliffs at Five Islands to Somewhere in France, you done good.  And yes, there ARE still tickets available for this final week!  Now hurry up and get one if you haven’t seen it yet…because, frankly, I’m thinking six viewings has a nice ring to it.  Hmmm…

Peace, love and soul to you all,

The Visitor (and Winston)