Kanika Ambrose Brings Her Revered Solo Show to the Toronto Fringe
Sometimes I watch a writer tell a story and I forget that they spent years writing it. Charm can do that. Intelligence can also do that. Eccentricities also, they can do that too. Kanika Ambrose definitely does that with all three of those qualities.
The Art of Traditional Head-tying debuted this past June at the Toronto East End Performance Crawl but I was lucky enough to see an excerpt of in May at a Theatre Passe Murraille after hours event. As I watched, oddities, all kinds of oddities, hit me. And I liked it. It was one of those "Wow I really like this" moments. Those precious, savoury theatre-magic sparkles of "real nice" are rare but Ambrose gives us splash after splash throughout her piece.
Ambrose plays several characters as she tells the story of Rosemarie, a young woman who, after twenty years of living in Canada, goes back to her home Island, Dominica (Dominica, W.I., Ambrose's cultural heritage) to take a workshop on traditional head-tying, a dying art form. While there she meets a voluptuous cast of characters, each uniquely voiced. The magic of the piece comes from Ambrose's spontaneity. Her imagination is vivid, tangential, hurried and strange: All great things in story telling and all coveted principles of any solo show.
The impulsive nature of the script reflects Ambrose's writing process. She writes on her feet, a trick true performers love to exercise (see favoured Newborn writers Haley Mcgee and Daniel MacIvor). As stated by Ambrose, she wrote "in as many characters as I wanted and I put them in all kinds of situations. They yell at each other, chase each other up hills, have arguments and even make-out with each other. It wasn’t until I started reading the play as an actor that I realized all the problems that I had created for myself!". One of the greatest writing stories ever told will eventually be the one you hear about Ambrose writing a love scene for her to play between two different characters in her own solo show. It's moments like that which allow a humble writer/actor to rely on her director. Ambrose's generosity in process and performance are absolute treasures which will continue to support her growing body of work.
Don't miss her! If you love story telling, you will laugh and continue laughing post-show. See it several times! Like a true creator, her work is always developing. She's a new friend to Newborn and a perfect addition to the Canadian theatre scene.
"I’m always curious to see how the work will land with different audiences. After that, who knows what will happen, but I do see more life in this work. I’m not quite finished exploring it and growing it yet."
...And we will keep following her.
CHECK IT OUT!
The Art of Traditional Head-tying opens at the Toronto Fringe Tonight (June 2) at 8:45 at St. Vlad's Theatre.
ADDITIONAL SHOW TIMES
July 02 at 08:45 PM
July 05 at 02:15 PM
July 07 at 03:00 PM
July 09 at 07:45 PM
July 11 at 02:15 PM
July 12 at 12:00 PM
July 13 at 09:00 PM
See below for how you can continue to support her work.
Thomas McKechnie Ignites a Fury at the Toronto Fringe
I shouldn't express such personal bias but I've read and re-read the press release for Valykrie, heard and re-heard pieces of his last work, and the aeroplanes fell into the sea, I've heard songs, stand-alone poetry, I've had conversations, I've been compelled to create art by him and I just love Thomas McKechnie.
What can I do? How else do I begin this article? Do you know him? If you knew him, you'd be nodding your head right now. He's a strange, sophisticated, romantic, thoughtful, creative, tall, real blonde, real brave and real I-think-I-know-what-he's-talking-about-but-I'm-so-charmed-and-happy-right-now-I-could-be-really-lost (I think they call that deep) kind of playwright. He was inaugrated into the Soulpepper Academy last summer and, after a year of diligent exploration and impact, he's teaming up with Rarely Pure Theatre to bring his newest piece, Valykrie, to the Toronto Fringe. I asked McKechnie a few generic questions and got a few whistful answers and I still know very little about this show, but, based on what he's told me and based on what I've witnessed of his creative beauty, I can list off a few promises.
First of all, get ready to be hit with a huge swat of the absurd. Though the drama of his worlds is almost hyper-realistic, the circumstances are often bizarre and unmistakeably-McKechnie. It's the kind of work that could never be plagiarized, could never be boring, could never be over-written. The last piece of his that I'm familiar with, and the aeroplanes fell into the sea, was also a testament to his ability to heighten familiar circumstances with language and rhythm, and with, frankly, great writing.
Now, having read about Valykrie, I think I've figured out that his trick is to keep his imagination stowed in his gut, leaving it limitless, raw and a little nauseating (the good kind). He speaks of the show as if its composition was uncontrollable:
"It never admits that it's a play, the world is consistent and realistic. It does have a philosophical or political argument to make, there are page long stage directions, it's violent, angry, sexy, snarky, sarcastic, it features weird/obscure cultural references and passages lifted from Shakespeare. It features rambling, page-long monologues and moments of holy ritual."
Indeed. theatricalizing reality towards absurd heights is a genuine talent of McKechnie's. However, the second gift, I wanted to promise you would receive In this show, is a gasp-worthy, shower of social insight. Valykrie follows two Furies, Bradley and Erin, as they avenge for adulterers' blood. Basically, what I'm hearing, is that we have two, very powerful females, out to prove their empowerment. They come equipped with strength in all kinds of places, apparently embodying terror and capable of all the weaponry. It's like Kill Bill just got a whole lot smarter because McKechnie isn't writing about fantasy. He's writing about anger, revenge and power. He's modernizing age-old explorations. The more I write about it, the less I can contain my excitement. This is a twisted homage to feminism. This is creative controversy. This is gross and unapologetic and lovable. This is Thomas McKechnie.
The content of the show speaks to Rarely Pure Theatre's homage to new, hungry artists from Toronto. It sounds as though this is the first fresh, Canadian script that they're taking on and we couldn't love them more for it. Not only are they supporting a young writer, but they're supporting his hysterical ideas. Kudos and standing ovation, friends. This is an effort worth supporting. Get there first so that you can rave about it.
CHECK IT OUT
Valykrie premieres at The Toronto Fringe on July 2nd at The Tarragon Extra Space Theatre
RUN TIME: 60 minutes
July 02 at 10:30 PM
July 05 at 08:45 PM
July 08 at 07:00 PM
July 09 at 05:15 PM
July 10 at 12:00 PM
July 12 at 03:30 PM
July 13 at 12:00 PM