Thursday, December 28, 2006

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

CBC Radio Victoria is now posting audio files of theatre reviews (mine and colleague David Lennam's) at

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Criticism that hands down sentences sends me to sleep; I’d like a
criticism of scintillating leaps of the imagination. It would not be
sovereign or dressed in red. It would bear the lightning of possible

(Michel Foucault, The Masked Philosopher)

Monday, November 27, 2006


For Immediate Release

WAVE Theatre
[Workshop Actors of Victoria Ensemble]

by Daniel MacIvor

Co-directed and performed by:
Gina McIntosh
Monica Prendergast
Kate Rubin

January 5th to 14th, 2007
Metro Studio Theatre
1411 Quadra at Johnson
Thursday to Saturday - 8 pm
Saturday - 4 pm
Sunday - 2 pm
Preview January 4th – Pay What You Can
Tickets $12 / $15 at the door
Call 721-8480 to book in advance

MARION BRIDGE is the humorous and touching story of three sisters, two of whom return home to Sydney, Nova Scotia to help the third sister care for their dying mother. Trapped by life choices and unfulfilled expectations that have left them isolated, the three women search for the courage to create a new family from the remnants of the old. Marion Bridge was nominated for a Governor General's Award and was made into a feature film in 2002.

WAVE Theatre was formed as a cooperatively-run company in 2003 to create productions that showcase local Victoria actors and focus on mostly
contemporary Canadian theatre. To date, WAVE has successfully produced JEWEL by Joan McLeod, THE ATTIC, THE PEARLS AND THREE FINE GIRLS by Leah Cherniak, Anne-Marie MacDonald and Martha Ross (nominated for a 2004 Monday Magazine Outstanding Theatre production award), and a co-production with the Belfry Theatre, LION IN THE STREETS by Judith Thompson (as their annual Incubator project).

For more information on WAVE Theatre or this production of Marion Bridge, please contact Monica Prendergast at or 721-7997 x 2.


Gina McIntosh – Two-time winner of Monday's Outstanding Female Actor Award, Gina is a familiar presence onstage in Victoria. She has appeared in WAVE's previous productions of Lion in the Streets and The Attic, the Pearls and Three Fine Girls. Gina has also worked with Atomic Vaudeville as their irrepressible hostess Flora and in Qualities of Zero by Jacob Richmond, produced both at the Belfry and in Vancouver. At the Belfry, Gina played Miss Rose in last season's The Girl in the Goldfish Bowl. Gina can also be found at Langham Court Theatre or in various Fringe Theatre or Giggling Iguana productions. Gina teaches for Kaleidoscope Theatre School and often appears in their Christmas productions, as in this season's Charlotte's Web.

Monica Prendergast – The latest credit for Monica is the successful defense performance of her doctoral dissertation at UVic this year. When not teaching in the Departments of Theatre or Education at UVic, Monica has been seen on stage at the Phoenix Theatre, Langham Court Theatre and in all past WAVE Theatre productions. She also enjoys participating in Puente Theatre's WorldPlay readings and is currently co-developing a theatre-in-education project about peace activism with Puente's artistic director Lina De Guevara. Monica loves the process of collaboration and so is also pursuing a co-production with Victoria's ITSAZOO Productions of Alphonse by Wajdi Mouawad. She is thrilled to be back on stage with her two favorite actors in this production of Marion Bridge.

Kate Rubin – Kate is well-known to Victoria theatregoers for her performances with many companies including Kaleidoscope Theatre, Giggling Iguana Productions and, most recently, William Head on Stage's Macbeth. Kate has also appeared in the last two WAVE Theatre productions with Monica and Gina. For many years, her drama/theatre studio has been an invaluable place for young people and adults to find both training and community. Each spring her senior students present a full-length theatre production that is a vibrant showcase for young talent. This year, Kate has taken over the Belfry 101 audience education project at the Belfry (begun by Monica in 1999) and will be facilitating an original theatre production with these students during March Break.

Marion Bridge (from Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia)
Marion Bridge (Talonbooks 1999) by Daniel MacIvor is set in the kitchen of a family home in Nova Scotia. The family history is tracked in terms of the response of three daughters to their dying mother, who has made a deliberate choice to die on her own terms, leaving her daughters to assess the terms on which they are currently living. The eldest sister, Agnes MacKeigan, is an alcoholic, under-employed actress, who has reluctantly returned home. The middle sister, Theresa, is a nun, who has assumed the responsibility of caring for her mother and her younger sister, Louise, who is perceived as "strange" - a social misfit.
Marion Bridge begins with a monologue in which Agnes recounts a dream: she is drowning, and any hope of rescue by a young family sitting on the beach is denied. They misinterpret her frantic waving for help, and respond by waving back. Agnes's despair is related to her childlessness: she has given up a daughter for adoption. Her journey towards self-knowledge and an equilibrium informed by hope for the future are effected through her reconciliation with her mother and with her daughter.
Her plan to stay in the family home with her daughter and her sister Louise, is at first discouraged by Theresa, who is suspicious of her motives. Theresa also has her own private despair. Even though she belongs to a community of believers, and attempts to live out a Christian humanist philosophy, she experiences doubt and disbelief. She is sustained primarily through her contact with the land in the form of farming; her relationship to the earth is both visceral and spiritual.
As she tells Agnes, however, she no longer sees God in a world in which children are killing children, and "half the world [is] on drugs and the other half starving and people just letting it happen" (106). What she values is her connection to her mother --represented in the post-its passed from mother to daughter on which are scribbled indicators of her needs: "Mother's notes. They're so beautiful. At first just a bunch of marks and squiggles but once you understand it it's as big and wonderful as any language" (78). She respects her mother's wish to die alone, while the three sisters are visiting their estranged father and his new wife.
Although the play validates communication and connection, it also demonstrates the "beauty" of aloneness - the private individual worlds in which each woman lives. Louise's private world - her "reality" - is that of the soap operas on television. She finally enters a larger world when she reaches out to a woman friend, and buys a truck from her.
All three sisters finally make the long-delayed trip to Marion Bridge - which has been for their mother a family goal, and but which when realized in the past, has disappointed her daughters. This time, however, it is the joint excursion that is the point, rather than the arrival. Once on the bridge - a connecting point between past, present, and future, they celebrate their mother's life and death by scattering the post-its "high into the air" like confetti (127).
Marion Bridge was nominated for a Governor General's Award. It was filmed in 2002, with screen play by MacIvor, and direction by Camelia Frieberg.
Review by Anne Nothof

Thursday, November 23, 2006


As I am commuting to UBC regularly this year and next as part of my postdoctoral research project there, I am also able to see some Vancouver theatre. I will post brief commentaries on the shows I see.

Richard Brinsley Sheridan's School for Scandal, written in the late 1700's, is a wonderful example of a Restoration comedy of manners. Dean Paul Gibson directs a splendid version for the Arts Club (is it just me, or do actors make the best directors?) with a terrific production team. We revel in the gossipy maliciousness of the London gentry as they cause mischief and mayhem in other people's lives. The plot is centred around the reputations of the two Surface brothers, one supposedly “fallen” who is in fact quite honorable and the other vicious and underhanded while appearing to be perfect in every way. The discovery of the truth of these two brothers' behaviour is the final discovery of the play and is offset beautifully in the secondary plot line around the December-May marriage of the aging Sir Teazle to a young wife, Lady Teazle. It is their growing toward each other and into an honest and genuine loving relationship that emotionally anchors the play.

The show looks gorgeous with a terrific set design from Ted Roberts that riffs on a famous scene involving the profligate Surface brother selling off the family portraits. The set consists entirely of huge ornate empty picture frames that are embedded in the stage floor and tipped over at all angles to form entryways and doors for all the various locations in the play. A marvelous design conceit that works. The costume designs by Rebekka Sorensen reflect this slightly off-kilter sense with faithfully historic costumes injected with circus-like patterns, colors and playfulness.

But of course it is the cast that brings the play to life, with gusto. It is an evenly strong ensemble of 14 actors and it seems unfair to mention just a few, but here I go! I was delighted by Jennifer Clement's Lady Sneerwell (especially in the opening scene of the show, which will live in Vancouver theatre history, I am sure, for its sheer outrageousness!) and Wendy Gorling's double role. The brothers Surface, Scott Bellis and Todd Thomson play their roles with relish. But it is the Teazle couple of David Marr and Mia Ingimundson who charmed me with the truthfulness of their love for each other in spite of the falseness that surrounds them. I last saw David Marr as a young actor fresh out of theatre school at the Globe in Regina over 20 years ago. It was with a strange haunting sense that I saw him this week...can that possibly be the same actor? How could he be, well, middle-aged? What does that make me, who was his age then? A reminder of how well theatre reflects back to us our own sense of mortality. But Marr has grown into a first-rate actor, and that is something to celebrate alongside the inevitable passing of time that seeing an actor after so much time brings to our attention. Colin Heath has great fun as the rich Uncle Oliver who tests the character of his nephews (the Surface boys). All in all, it is a fine showcase for the best talent Vancouver has to offer and a strong argument for the inclusion of fresh interpretations of classic plays as part of a regional theatre's season. Better this Scandal than the upcoming Disneyfied production of Beauty and the Beast that is the Arts Club remount of last year's hit holiday show. Is this the dream of Canadian national culture? With Scandal I would say yes, as it lets us see an old play with new eyes. How are we then to take on the cookie-cutter Beast a la Walt?

Monday, November 20, 2006


1) Shakespeare's RICHARD III at the Phoenix Theatre at UVIC marks a double swan-song for two members of the Theatre Dept. Can you tell us about that?

Director Giles Hogya is retiring as professor of theatre and dean of fine arts and this is his final production after 34 years at UVIC. Actor Trevor Hinton, who plays the evil King Richard, is graduating from the theatre dept. next spring after 8 mainstage appearances. For both Hogya and Hinton, this production gives them a showcase for their respective talents. Hogya creates a strong and focussed production that makes the George theatre into an arena with the audience sitting on all four sides so everyone is right in the thick of the action. He also uses every exit and entrance available in the theatre and has a large cast of over 25 actors who move in and out of characters and costumes to great effect. All this effort supports the central performance of Richard, one of Shakespeare's most famous villains, who Hinton plays as younger and more virile than we've come to expect from the stereotypical "hunchbacked toad"...this is a fit and vigorous fighter, only slightly physically disabled, who can't stand the idea of peace, so sets out ruthlessly to kill his way to the throne, even if it means murdering his own brother and nephews to get there. Hinton is a fine actor whose work has grown and grown over his time at the Phoenix, so this is a last chance to see him onstage there, although I feel we'll be seeing a lot more of him in the future!

2) What other aspects of the production stand-out for you?

Designer Allan Stichbury gives us his second set of the year at UVic and it is a kind of hard industrial-looking wrestling arena that makes us feel like we're in a very male and military world. The production is set in the present day, but is not clearly defined beyond that, so I did find myself wondering why sometimes the male aristocratic characters are in business suits and then move into military gear. In the present day, men in business suits do not fight wars, they send poor young men to do that for them. Hogya is an internationally known lighting designer so grad student Tim Herron's lighting, under his guidance, is a strong feature in the show, less so the intermittent synthesizer music. Many of the undergrad students give good performances, especially the senior acting students, but it is a mature law student, Christopher Mackie, who impresses most with his portrayal of Richard's partner in crime, Lord Buckingham. The most memorable sequence is the major battle scene near the end of the play, choreographed by Nicholas Harrison, that will have you cringing in your seat as the stage swarms with violent action.

3) The second play you saw was quite a contrast with this bloody-minded Shakespearean tragedy, ARTICHOKE at Langham Court Theatre.

Yes, it was somewhat of a relief to be put into the more traditionally female world of a woman's kitchen in a farm home outside of Raglan, Saskatchewan for this story of an alienated married couple and the man who returns to and shakes up their lives. This play was originally written and produced 30 years ago by Joanna Glass, who has since risen to prominence in both Canada (where she was born and grew up) and the U.S. (where she moved to long ago and still lives) for her wonderful plays and novels. Local theatregoers will remember her lovely play TRYING at the Belfry a couple of years ago.

4) And what was your response to this earlier play and this production?

The play is very engaging and tells an emotional tale about loving and forgiving. Wife and mother Margaret has banished her husband Walter to sleep in the smokehouse for the past 14 years, ever since an abandoned baby, fathered by Walter, was left on their doorstep. Margaret has raised the daughter Lily Agnes as her own and loves her, but she cannot forgive Walter for his infidelity, until she is tempted to it herself with the homecoming of a man she grew up with, Gibson. Caroline McKenzie and Jason Stevens as the feuding spouses do a fine job in their first appearances at Langham and are ably supported by the rest of the cast, especially John Gilliland as Gramps and Hannah Boutilier as the quirky Lily Agnes. The set is designed by sculptor Mowry Baden and works very well and is well-lit by Randy Poulis who also convincingly plays the prodigal son Gibson. The cast is rounded out by veterans Phil Gibbs and Drew Kemp who have lots of fun with their rustic narratorship of the play as Jake and Archie, farm neighbors of the troubled family. The Langham production, directed by veteran director and actor Judith McDowell tells the story faithfully and with energy, perhaps a bit too much energy at times as I felt some scenes and characterizations were less than subtle and tended towards being overplayed. But it is a difficult play in which to find the right balance as it has no subtext or secrecy whatever...every character wears his heart and his or her anger on their sleeve, everybody knows everybody's business at all times.

5) Is this a point of similarity with RICHARD III, which is full of so much court intrigue?

That is a strong connection between these two shows. In both, you feel like you are in two very different worlds, the royal court of 16th century England and the kitchen of a prairie farm, yet at all times you know what's going to happen, that there is a price to be paid for too much ambition, too much lust. Sometimes this is challenging for the audience, especially in Glass's play where we expect something more naturalistic and get a play that feels quite mythical in many ways, like it's larger than life. We expect larger than life with Shakespeare, though, and that's what we get with Richard when are left with the image of a haunted and ruined man, who even in his death throes is still reaching for the throne. Both dramatic tales are ones worth telling, and seeing.


1) Urinetown is the biggest show ever mounted at the Belfry do you feel about a show of this size in such a small theatre space like the Belfry that seats fewer than 300 as part of the season?

Set fills the whole stage picture, moveable pieces, great design by Ian Rye, actors moving throughout the house using all the entrances available and even up on the balcony, there's no miking so the show feels intimate but the music sometimes overpowers singers and we miss the words...difficult to achieve this balance in such a small auditorium.

2) The other record-breaker attached to this show is it's the first time since Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht that a musical that's played on Broadway has been done by the it a good choice?

I do have concerns about Canadian regional non-profit theatres doing American musicals [as in Beauty and the Beast at the Arts Club in Vancouver] but this show has something else going on in it...Reminds me of Brecht, tackles relevant social issues and provokes the audience in the guise of looks at, albeit indirectly, the issue of sustainability and our running out of water...about a future world where water is gone so people have to pay to urinate and the urine is recycled by money-grubbing entrepeneurs and politicians...also like Brecht it acknowledges the audience and lets them "in on the act" so we feel complicit...however, unlike Brecht who argued for socialism and communism and against capitalism in his plays, Urinetown refuses to take looks at the consequences of revolution and the blind idealism that often lies behind building a world based on hope and justice in the face of huge ecological challenges...this makes surprising turns of event in act 2 that much more the character Little Sally says, "This is not a happy musical"!

3) Why would we want to see an unhappy musical...isn't that a contradiction in terms?

In this case no, because the genius of the show, and source of its great popularity, is that you're laughing at the dreadful fates that befall almost everyone and by extension at ourselves because we too are dealing with a world that is running dry of natural resources and what exactly are we doing about it? But the main point is that even though it gets a bit bleak in Act 2, it's remains a marvelous musical with great songs and ensemble numbers that sweep you along with their infectious can't help but enjoy everyone's misery and that's what makes it so unique I think. Isn't that part of human nature, too, as one character sings "to kill the bunny"?

4) There are 15 cast members and 4 musicians up there...who stood out for you?
A real pleasure to see so many local actors [Brian Linds very funny as Officer Barrel, Lynda Raino dancing up a storm] but for me it was especially rewarding to see two UVIC Phoenix grads...Zach Stevenson is wonderful as the leading man Bobby Strong...beautiful voice, strong physicality and a very untypical but potent charm...also terrific is Meg Roe as Little Sally with her powerhouse voice and quirky characterization of this innocent child trapped in a nightmare world...other non-local standouts are John Payne as the dripping-with-irony narrator Officer Lockstock, Cailin Stadnyk as the dim-witted but lovable ingenue and Susinn McFarlen as the evil Miss Pennywise and your own Scott Walker as the villain Caldwell Cladwell. But it really is an ensemble musical and it is the whole cast working together so well that stays with you.

5) Any comments on the direction and design?

This show is clearly a labor of love for AD Roy Surette and he has directed it very crisply with lots of funny physical and character business that gives everyone a moment or two (or three) in which they can shine. A terrific job on such a big show. Jacques Lemay choreographs simple but effective sequences, including some that give a direct nod to other famous musicals like Fiddler on the Roof and West Side Story. Set Designer Ian Rye creates a wonderfully large, moveable and effective set and Lighting designer Gerald King lights it to best effect. Local costume designer Erin Macklem creates very strong costumes that must have lots of velcro in them to make all the quick-changes work so well. All in all it's the hit that it should be and I urge listeners to get their tickets (even though the run has already been extended) as soon as possible!


1) I understand this is not the first production of Shakespeare's Macbeth to be performed at William Head. What do you think makes it such a popular choice as a prison theatre production?
Macbeth was performed by WhoS in 1983 and you can see photos from that and many other productions in the lobby of the theatre (formerly the prison's gymnasium) as you come in. Out of all Shakespeare's plays, this one seems the most obvious choice for a prison with male inmates. Macbeth is a very masculine play, about power and ambition and the violence often required to attain and hold on to power. It is a highly male-dominated world in the play, set in Scotland in the middle Ages. Even the female roles in the play are masculine – the 3 witches, Lady Macbeth - only Lady Macduff is truly “feminine” and she is promptly killed soon after we meet her!
How is seeing a play at William Head different from seeing one anywhere else?
Driving out, signing in, razor wire fences, no valuables, security, driving to venue, literally a captive audience...
So, after adjusting to this shift from outside to inside, what about the strengths of the show?
Macbeth is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and this has been trimmed further so it moves along at a good pace. The production is well-designed, especially the costumes, and tightly directed. More impressively the 12 male actors speak the text clearly and with understanding, if not rhythm and poetry. The females are uniformly excellent, especially Karen Lee Pickett as a smiling Lady M. hiding her true emotions beneath her false face and Kate Rubin as one of the witches who makes a couple of quite creepy and very effective transitions from playing a murderer who morphs back into a witch. And I loved the loud but effective drumming that serves to mark scene changes and drive the play forward.
How does it work to have both actors and non-actors working together in the same production?
For me this is the most difficult challenge in seeing a WHoS show, the knowledge you have that the males are inmates and largely inexperienced as actors. This can sometimes create an imbalance in certain scenes, such as those between Macbeth and his wife. Pat Craig who plays Macbeth has never acted before while Karen Pickett has an impressive stage history behind her. Yet, if you are willing to accept this imbalance as part of the package when you go to a WHoS show, then what you can see is the remarkable generosity of spirit and mutual support that is passed between and amongst these actors that is quite moving. And there are moments in the production when Craig's Macbeth finds a level of anger and blustering rage that I felt was quite right in his performance, especially in the terrific banquet scene where he is haunted by the ghost of one of his victims and former close friend Banquo and again in the final battle scenes. Other inmates bring a natural physicality and swagger to their roles which also works well, playing men living together in a closed and often violent male-dominated world. In particular I liked the work of Ryan Love, Otto Lang and Larry Iverson in their various roles.
Do you have any reservations about the choices made by the director Ian Case?
This may make me sound like a prude, but I'm not fond of realistic portrayals of violence onstage. Theatre has a long history of stylizing violence or playing it as happening offstage, and frankly, I prefer things done that way. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule (even in Shakespeare) but I found a couple of murders in the production a bit over the top in their use of fake blood and explicit acting out of throat-cutting and being stabbed in the neck with a sword. I wouldn't enjoy these scenes in a regular theatre production, but when played by men who are inmates in a federal penitentiary, some of whom have committed violent crimes themselves including murder, I wish director Ian Case had steered the show away from this one element that I did find unsettling, but not in a good way.