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
Deconstructing Young Romance with Chaotic Spontaneity
A playwright can build a mountain out of any molehill. That's our job. We inflate reality into theatrical realms. We groom everyday ordinaries into Broadway dramas. A playwright can and must create topical explosions which means that all playwrights can discover a story, no matter the subject. The "what" is never the problem. Perhaps surprisingly, most playwrights have more trouble determining the "when", the sequence, the structure. The issue is, anything in life can happen at anytime. We think things must happen for a reason but no, not at all, guys, the truism is overwhelming: Things just happen.
Here's how it works: Fifty-two scenes are represented by a deck of fifty-cards and each night, at the top of the show, two actors (a different pair each night, four different pairs in total) throw the deck in the air, collect the cards, and perform the scenes in a new order. This non-structure structure is actually quite brilliant. A lot of relationships are just stories we tell. We have them, they die, we memorialize them and our memory of them is influenced by the chaos within which we experienced them. Our stories are experientially and emotionally devised by the structure of our memories. The more chaos there is, the more emotion. Therefore, get ready for a dangerously exciting presentation of real-life spontaneity and the resulting emotional consequences. If no one knows what's going to happen in the show...then...no one knows what's going to happen in the show...It makes me as nervous as falling in love or as breaking up with a loved one or as nervous as being single for the rest of my life. The show will stir your stomach a bit but, the good news is, the actors are also on their toes.
A show with so much emotional potential insists that performers must trusts their improvisational skills as well as, I can imagine, their emotional decorum. Ordinarily, in a structured show, performers can prepare their appropriate emo-buttons for the oncoming pushing but, in this case, they have to acknowledge before hand that their open-hearts must be monitored closely throughout. The experience presented therefore epitomizes the high-strung emotional realm of the twenty-something year-old individual, a realm that The Howland Company often excites on stage. The exhaustion that overcomes two characters, two performers who have no idea what is coming next, mimics the exhaustion of the young individuals The Howland Company is seeking to reach.
With chaos and passion up in the air, there's no way this show won't shake-up your Fringe line up. It's seventy-five minutes of who-the-hell-knows and it will defy all the other relationship plays you see this summer.
CHECK IT OUT!
52 Pick-Up Opens at The Tarragon Extraspace July 3rd, 7 pm
ADDITIONAL SHOW TIMES
July 05 at 10:30 PM
July 08 at 03:00 PM
July 10 at 01:45 PM
July 11 at 05:45 PM
July 12 at 08:45 PM
July 13 at 05:15 PM
The Howland Company will also be producing a new translation of Ödön Von Horvàth’s “Kasimir and Karoline” as translated and adapted by Holger Syme, Chair of English and Drama at the University of Toronto, and one of our founding members Paolo Santalucia. They hope to have a staged reading ready for late autumn.
Ellen Chorley transforms Edmonton into an urban playground at the 2014 Found Festival
The problem I've always had with Peter Pan, and I know we all have problems with Peter Pan, but mine specifically is that, if I could remain a kid forever, I don't think I'd ever want to leave my home. I grew up in a city. Why would I ever want to leave the city? Wouldn't I rather find intrigue and mystery in my own backyard just in case the intrigue and mystery disappoints me? Yes. I'd rather meet pirates at home than far away. Good thing, then, for Promise Productions' premiere of Ellen Chorley's Never Never. As part of this year's Found Festival (produced by the Common Ground Arts Society), Chorley has crafted a site-specific adaptation of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan that transforms downtown Edmonton into an urban, concrete, strange and sensational, theatrical playground for young audiences.
Promise Productions is Chorley's own Theatre For Young Audiences (TYA) company. Since 2006, she's been adapting fairy tales and folk tales into larger-than-life, strange and fantastic, imaginative theatrical worlds for children to ooh and aah at. Finding ways to engage children in a live-performance setting is a very special skill meant for the charismatic and compassionate. After encountering Never Never it became clear to me, Chorley embodies "charismatic and compassionate". She gets it.
Here's my humble assessment of her formula: Small children like big worlds. You'd agree if you saw Never Never which is a huge undertaking, just big enough, perhaps, to swallow a child whole and enchant them through the best day of their life.
Though Never Never is Promise Productions' first site-specific piece, they are hardly shy about taking ownership over a little bit of Edmonton. In order to construct her urban Neverland, Chorley has successfully metamorphosed a significant portion of the cityscape for a full participatory adventure.
Honouring the true craft of site-specific work, Chorley has written the script specifically for this location. As she describes:
"The writing process was one part typing in front of my computer and two parts walking around the Old Strathcona area location scouting. I chose under Duggan bridge for the Lost Boy's hideout because there where lots of nooks and crannies to hide in, but also a ton of high points for look outs. Michael realizes that he can't fly in an old school playground because we could have him (safely) try to climb a slide in his attempt to take off. The last half of the play takes place on the paths of the river valley because they feel a little like maze and I wanted to make the audience feel like the danger of being lost in a forest."
Chorley's work on and off the computer has certainly paid off. The breadth of the show is arousing. The audience must negotiate their understanding of the landscape in order to inhale the transformation and experience an entirely new scenic display.
Above and beyond the environmental accomplishments that the show emblemizes, its breadth of cast is also a milestone for Chorley. With sixteen different performers, Never Never is the largest cast that her company has ever employed. The enlarged cast absolutely makes for a more immersed setting. Familiar characters including Captain Hook, Tinker Bell and the Lost Boys surround the audience as we follow Wendy, Michael and John Darling on their escape from Neverland. Children will think they are lost in a video game, I swear. It's too big for them to see beyond. They will think that they're television has swallowed them. Chorley obviously gets it: The bigger the blithe-ier. As long as she can contain her participants, this might be her best contribution to whatever-it-is-that-makes-kids-gleeful yet. The experience is unforgettable.
Once you're taken by her Found Festival entry, you'll be happy to have learned that Chorley isn't just a whims-maker for children. She also has a burlesque theatre company called Send in the Girls Burlesque and they will be debuting her new play The Hollywoodland Burlesques at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival 2014 this August. So, get your fill of childlike fun at Found and then anticipate adult-awesomeness at Fringe.
CHECK IT OUT
Never Never plays June 28-29 at the Found Festival in Edmonton.
For more information, click here.
Living Room Theatre Decorates the Night with New Works by Quirky Artists
I remember meeting We're From Out West, a threesome of musicians from Alberta, at a NEST Magazine party a couple of years ago. The men in the band were very clearly artistically ambitious and I didn't understand quite what I was listening to but I liked what I was being asked to experience: An ambience, a seance, maybe, perfumed with the earnest, new and raw writing of three generous and skilled artists. It might not have been done, but it was certainly being done in the moment, as I watched.
After sitting down with Thomas McKechnie, the bass guitarist of the band (who was trying to convince me that if I should ever want to join a band, I should just learn the bass guitar because you "don't really do anything but you look really awesome and then you're in a band") I realized that this band is quite literally and impressively a "band", a tiny little performing unit of people bound buy their work and their vehemence for performance, a tiny tribe of artists who live together and work together in a theatre company called Living Room Theatre.
It was then that I learned about New Art Night, a series of evenings once or twice a year in Toronto where artists gather to display what they're working on, in whatever format, as a means of contributing to an up-and-coming performing arts scene. The event was created by the founders of Living Room Theatre. Alexi Pedneault, Jesse Byiers and Thomas McKechnie, three gentleman who hail from Alberta and have come to Toronto to perplex and amaze us with their love for expression. With New Art Night, Living Room Theatre has compiled a performance format wherein, much like my experience of their band, the audience barely has time to judge or estimate what we are watching. All we have time to do is participate. You can ask questions later as artists co-mingle in the Post-New Art Night bliss of hey-we're-artists-and-we-just-tried-something-new-and-now-we're-filled-with-joy just because amongst one another's strange ideas. It's absolutely a place for people who love zygomatic, in the rough, polishing, polishing, getting there, getting there, types of gold arty nuggets. Living Room Theatre has created a space for Artists to come together and collect ourselves. It's a home for any artist especially if your ideal home includes an orgy of investigation and a very sweet nod towards our right to participate in opportunities of shameless love for our process.
This year, New Art Night will feature the works of an astounding array of local artists including (our very own and very dear) Kyle Capstick, Lily Tarba, Kelsey Goldberg, Daniel Karasik, Alexandra Simpson and plenty more. The event will take place in the relentlessly cool Videofag in Kensington Market. You will meet strange people. They will meet you. Go have a look. Get inspired. Art a little bit.
CHECK IT OUT
New Art Night takes place June 21-23 at Videofag in Toronto.
For all details check out the Facebook event page.
Chilko Tivy Dizzies Us Down To Earth with a Quirky, Personal Show about Luminous Universals
"There is no such thing as a one woman show", Chilko Tivy tells me as she lists off her mentors, collaborators and friends who have all helped her compile her current Fringe creation Gravity: A Tragedy. Having met Tivy and knowing that she's as open-hearted as she is outspoken, I believe that she accepted help from an admired collection of artists including Jesse Stong, Tedi Tafel, Eamon Knowles, Krysteena Demarco and Leni Parker, only to name a few. However, given the originality of the piece, the kind of originality that can only really come from a lady who shoots high within the creative stratosphere. a woman with narrative ambitions that come with unavoidable personal quirks, I cannot help but insist: Tivy's show is uniquely her. She's been developing it for years and, now at the Montreal Fringe, she's brought it to a place of extreme writer-ly merit, not to mention her outstanding performance capabilities and brilliant musical talents.
Gravity: A Tragedy is centered around the Queen of the Universe and her love affair with Gravity. The concept is already incredibly poetic. I know few writers who could have the imagination, let alone the diction, to articulate such a crazy cool concept. Eventually, Gravity pulls The Queen of the Universe so far down to Earth, she's forced to adapt to human life and turmoil. Throughout the show, Tivy explores the repercussions of falling down to Earth, of being in love with a menace who tugs you downwards, and of cycling through self-abusive patterns that are usually symptomatic of a fallen ego.
Deep, dark and dirty, Tivy doesn't shy away from a gloomy theme: " This is the story of a loveless world and how ultimate love cannot survive in this society", she tells me and I let out my long-held breath and accepted that Tivy is a young writer, writing about darkness and the best gift she can give us is to write about it in an incredibly interesting way. The show includes music that Tivy has composed herself, a tool that helps add a touch of lightness to her very heavy subject matter. Though a heartbreaking story, the storytelling technique is light, absurdist, giving, so giving, and intimate. The combination of magic and disturbance gives way to a meaningful 45-minute musical theatre explosion. It is unique, it is brave and it is absolutely Chilko Tivy.
CHECK IT OUT!
Gravity: A Tragedy runs at La Chapelle on June 19-22.
All ticket and show information can be found here.
Flapjack Cadillac Joins the Fringe sketch comedy brigade with a sixty very silly minutes of fun
I don't really know what's happening but there seems to be a surge of sketch comedy in this year's Fringe circuit. Wasn't there always a lot of improv? And cabarets? And stand up acts disguised as solo shows? I admit that I have always craved a little more dramatic writing in the Fringe comedy world and finally I'm salivating with satisfied hunger as hoards of talented sketch comedy writers make their way onto the Fringe scene.
Flapjack Cadillac is a sketch troupe from Montreal made up of the very funny Shane Adamczak, Jo Willers and Al Lafrance. Their current Fringe show Bananaramallamadingdong premiered last year and has been in development ever since. Now, a year and a half after it's inception, the troupe is performing the show again, this time on steroids, as they feature some of the best work they've ever done. With an absolute dose of funny and just the right amount of edge, this show is targeted directly towards making you laugh. The success of the piece fumes from the troupe's dedication to the audience. That's really the pay off of watching a comedy show: Unlike straight theatre, comedy is written with the audience's needs in mind. This show is a great example of the writer sacrificing narrative ambitions for audience payoff. Here, there are a few recurring characters and themes but mostly the vignettes are perfectly tailored to meet the audience's needs. What do we need? We need to laugh and Flapjack Cadillac will do whatever it takes to make that happen. "Of course, we also make a point of making a huge mess", Lafrance tells me. "Everybody loves making a mess, or watching someone make a mess. So we're happy to oblige." It's all for you. They're running around, acting hysterically, causing a riot. And it's all for you. And they're so good at it.
Bananaramallamadingdong has four more performances. Don't miss out!
CHECK IT OUT!
Bananaramallamadingdong runs at Spanish Club Espanol June 17-18 and 20-21.
All ticket and booking information here.
Brave New Comedy Imports Richard Herring's Acclaimed Answer to The Vagina Monologues to the Montreal Fringe
I've had many male comedians try to convince me that they've matured above and beyond writing jokes about their penises. "I'm smarter than that, a better writer than that, I'm more than just my dick, younger comics will learn quickly, I'm older and wiser now, right right right". Ok. But what if you can write a really runny penis joke? Gold is gold, even if it is adhered to your genitals. At least that's the lesson I've learned from the Canadian premiere of Talking Cock: Don't discredit jokes about your junior.
Admittedly, as a woman, I wouldn't ordinarily endorse writing a seventy-five minute piece about penis. Further, as a dramaturg, I also would never endorse writing a ninety minute show about vaginas or any genitalia or any one particular body part or love affair or just one thing, one dimension, because, I would humbly suggest, one dimension may not substantiate an entire show. Thank goodness no one told that to Richard Herring, a wildly successful UK comedian who has spent hours on stage in his winning show (and now podcast) Talking Cock discussing all the curiosities, fascinations, disturbances and wonders of his very own"spam javelin". I must admit, with his humour and honesty ingenuity. he has won the argument: Penis is funny. It's personal. Personal is tricky because it's easily offensive but if you're a funny person, you can ease personal matters into public places without much trouble at all.
Originally, when Herring premiered his show in Edinburgh in 2002, the piece was heralded as a "man's answer to the Vagina Monologues". The comparison doesn't really ring true if the piece is a one man show. The Vagina Monologues is Eva Ensler's amalgamation of a female voice through various voices ergo one man and his penis doesn't compare. By splitting Herring's show into several performers, Brave New Comedy is actually constructing something similiar with Herring's work: Several men discussing their genitals in order to appeal to a universal male voice. The result? A multi-dimensional show about penis. HOW?? It's such a brilliant little adjustment to a comedic piece and it adds many layers of theatricality. Brave New Comedy always works to blur the line between comedy and theatre and by premiering Herring's work in Canada with a theatrical twist, they are absolutely doing just that.
The show opened last Thursday to basically sold out houses. The humour is not for the faint of heart but is absolutely for those who would like to laugh immediately and probably for a while after the show. The sincerity, however, will hit home with most audience members. The universality of things that are personal, private, terrifying to experience and terrifying to talk about can be appreciated by any audience member. Though there is plenty of genitalia in the show, there is also plenty of heart. Bring both of yours with you and you'll be moved in all kinds of ways.
CHECK IT OUT!
Talking Cock plays at the Wiggle Room this week: June 17-21
All ticket information here.
Daniel Wishes Raises Hell with a Big-Top Puppetry Circus
I can't decide what I'm most excited about right now: puppets? DEVIL puppets? Devil puppets that SING, FLY, JUGGLE AND DO CIRCUS TRICKS while TELLING AN EPIC LOVE STORY WHAT IS HAPPENING??? I'm so pumped. Daniel Wishes, crazy-creative-puppetry master hails all the way from Edmonton to spectacular-ize a gentle (but NOT gentle) story about a heartbroken tight-rope walker. Actually, the story is quite tragic and dark (re: Devils) but what is most impressive and lovable about Wishes' work is that, despite being dark, it is still very watchable. Turning darkness into light is one of our jobs as theatre creators and it seems that Wishes is quite great at it. He pulls style and story from all kinds of places and the result is a really brilliantly crafted arrangement of the best of the best theatre components out there. The craft that goes into Wishes' show is seamless and rewarding. Hard to notice, sort of, because it's so dazzling, but I think I have him figured out.
Though the plot sounds simplistic, it is absolutely not. Creative, dark and very strange, what happens to our hero, Eurydice, after heartbreak is horrifying and gut-wrenching. Wishes has combined a number of romantic-journey plays into one three-million-dimensional story of love and loss. "The piece is based on the Greek legend of Eurydice and Orpheus, the Japanese legend of Izanami and Izagami, Beauty and the Beast and Victorian-era marionette circuses", Wishes breathlessly lists to me. "It's a bit of a mash-up." He realizes. But the result is a really well structured story of tragic love- loss wrapped up in well researched and well practiced stylistic nods use of Unraku puppets and 19th century trick marionettes. It's quite obvious: there will be no other show like it in the Fringe. Furthermore, maybe no other show like it that you'll ever see in your life, probably. Few people can handle tragedy with such whimsical elegance. Absolutely worth watching, worth enjoying and then bragging about afterwards.
CHECK IT OUT
Devil's Circus has remaining runs on June 14th, 15th and 17th at Scene Mini
More ticket and show information here.
Check out a preview to the show below!
George Braithwaite & Morgan O’Shea bring superhuman comedic buddy-cop parody to Fringe Montreal
Braithwaite and O'Shea began their careers as stand-up comedians in Montreal. As a challenge and, probably, from what I can tell, at least a bit of an amusement to themselves, they began writing for theatre. So far, these two have succeeded twice in the Montreal theatre scene with The Last Hollandaise Sauce (2012) and Failure to Thrive (2013). With their latest piece, Hardcastle and McCormick: Spiceface, Braithwaite and O'Shea are nodding facetiously towards vintage crime television: "It’s an homage to the 80s/90s buddy cop formula'", Braithwaite explains, "with a touch of Blaxploitation thrown in for colour."
Personally, I'm ecstatic that Braithwaite and O'Shea are in the Fringe this year. Though I have yet to see their theatrical works, I have seen both of them perform stand-up and I have laughed to the point of forgetting that there was a beer in front of me, to the point of holding the arm of the person beside me, to the point of cackling. Always funny, these men exude comedy and once you're a fan, you can continue to catch both comics after their Fringe run has ended. Braithwaite is working on an untitled radio play and O'Shea will be performing in The Hard and Slow Tour across the Maritimes with David Heti. Most fortunately, both comics will be performing in July in a 2014 Zoofest stand-up comedy event entitled The Mount Royal Rumble. Of course, if you're exceptionally inclined, you can find both of them performing around Montreal at various venues.
Get your first dose of them TONIGHT at Fringe Montreal.
CHECK IT OUT!
Hardcastle and McCormick: Spiceface opens June 13th at Theatre Ste-Catherine
Addicitional runs on June 14-15, 17-18, 21-22
Tickets available now, check here for ticket and booking information.