Sixty shows will be a part of the Ottawa Fringe Festival this year. There is no possible way to see them all. How to choose, then? We put out a call to presenting artists with a challenge. We’ll meet with all those interested. We’ll give you three minutes (roughly). You convince us why we see should see your show. Kind of like speed dating. In fact, that’s what we called it. In this case, everybody we selected got a literal calendar date. Every day from now til the start of the festival, we’re publishing a profile on one selected show. Today, that show is Abalone Productions’ Grain of Salt.
Grain of Salt is a high-energy piece of verbatim theatre exploring the struggling Christian culture and the human need for spiritual connection. Built on interviews conducted with people inside and outside the Church with questions such as, “What are your best and worst memories of the Church?” “Do you think the Church is relevant to Canadian society?” “Do you think the Church has done anything wrong?” Answers ranged from “the Church is the root of all evil” to “the Church is the root of all good,” and the jury is still out as to which opinion is the more controversial.
Grain of Salt was written and directed by Megan Piercey Monafu. It stars Megan Piercey Monafu, Richard Gélinas, Robin Hodge, Allison Harris, and Lewis Wynne-Jones. (Note the photo above features the cast from the previous production of Grain of Salt back in January 2014.)
What I Liked About Grain of Salt
I’ll be honest here and say that I was not intending to see Grain of Salt at the Ottawa Fringe Festival this year. The only reason for that was that I had seen it when it was produced back in January. Don’t get me wrong. It was a decent and interesting show. I just didn’t see any reason to go back to it. Certainly not with so many other shows in play at the same time. But after talking to Megan and hearing about how the project has developed and the changes that Grain of Salt has undergone, my interest has once again been raised.
Among those changes:
- Thirty minutes have been cut from the show, bringing it down to about sixty five. The show moves quicker and the comedy is tighter.
- New cast members, which always brings new energy to a show. Plus the promise of Richard Gélinas dressed as the pope definitely earns points.
- The new site-specific venue. Grain of Salt takes place in a church this time around, St. Alban’s, and promises to take full advantage of its surroundings. Including, according to Megan, a full processional.
What I especially like in that list is the first one. The fact that the show is now shorter and more concise. While I enjoyed Grain of Salt the first time out, I felt that it was a bit slow and meandering without really seeming to get anywhere. Now that it’s been shortened and tightened, I expect that it’s going to be a much more focused show, which should make it much more interesting. I’m also quite interested to see how they make use of the new space.
For those not familiar with verbatim theatre, this is a type of theatre where all (or most) of the spoken dialogue in the show comes directly from interview subjects. In this case, this is largely from Ottawans talking about their experiences with the church. Verbatim theatre means hearing the firsthand thoughts and stories of other people in their own words, and that is always interesting.
For more information on Grain of Salt including show time and how to buy tickets, visit their show page on the Ottawa Fringe Festival website: http://ottawafringe.com/tickets/grain-of-salt/