Belles Soeurs: The Musical is a very unlikely musical. Based on the play Les Belles-Soeurs by Michel Tremblay, Belles Soeurs introduces the audience to Germaine Lauzon, a working-class housewife in Quebec who has just won a million trading stamps from a department store. The jackpot is so large it would allow Germaine a chance to buy everything in the latest store catalogue. So overcome with pride and joy Germaine invites the neighborhood over for a party where everyone will help paste the stamps into the appropriate booklets for redemption. As Germaine’s neighbors, closest friends and family make their way into her crowded kitchen the jealousy, bitterness and contempt for Germaine’s prize sneaks up rather quickly souring what should be one of Germaine’s happiest days.Read the full review.
Concord Floral, a rundown greenhouse on the outskirts of Hunt Club, is the local teenage hang out. It’s abandoned, dangerous and perhaps a little haunted, which is enough of a draw to make it the place to go for parties, hookups or to just hang out if one has snuck out past their curfew. This dilapidated building holds secrets of its own and hosts a number of haunted, if not haunting, characters.Read the full review.
Rick Miller’s return to the Nation’s Capital is trumpeted with a resounding sound as he bounds onto the National Arts Centre English Theatre stage with an energetic euphoria in his one man show Boom. Boom spans the period of the early 1940’s to the late 1960’s delving into the political, social and artistic spectrum of the Baby Boomer Generation and how it’s come to shape future generations in its innovations.Read the full review.
Jack Charles v. The Crown is definitely an experience, to say the least. It’s a tale of heart ache, pain and suffering that holds a hope and resilience that is just as relevant today as it was when the injustices took place. Jack Charles is an actor from Australia, but it’s hard to define Jack Charles by that one title. He is also an Australian Indigenous Tribal Elder, drug addict, survivor of physical and sexual abuse, thief and homosexual. Jack Charles is way too complex to fit into one category and way too unique to just fit into the labels listed above, but they all helped define the person he has become today.Read the full review.
The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God finds Rainey, played by Lucinda Davis, fighting to make her way out from rock bottom. Three years after the sudden and unexpected loss of her daughter, marred in a divorce and suffering from severe mental health issues you would typically find on a TLC show, Rainey finds herself back in her hometown, a small Cottage country town in Western Ontario along the shores of Negro Creek. It’s here where Rainey encounters a whirlwind of activity which draws her from out of her haunted past into the present and may just make her step away from the ledge.
The Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of God is a very ambitious project that The National Arts Centre English Theatre has decided to open their 2015-16 Season with. It’s a show that relies heavily on a very talented and enthusiastic chorus, who are on stage 99% of the time. It’s a show that has a fairly large cast and a unique group of different characters all with their own motivations and goals. It’s a show that runs nearly three hours long, yet within it’s extremely long run time has very little actual content. The plot of this play could be told in just over an hour if we were to cut out all of the singing and dancing, which while it definitely does add to the quality of the show, also makes the show drag out longer than it needs to be.Read the full review.
Robert Lepage’s critically acclaimed Needles and Opium closes out the 2014/15 NAC English Theatre Season, exploring themes of heart break, addiction and liberation.
Should you see it?
The first thing anyone can say about Needles and Opium, whether they liked the show or not, is that it is visually stimulating. The entirety of the play takes place within a revolving cube that acts just as much as an ever changing set as it does a movie screen. Each character works to fill this cube as it rotates either by moving with it or with death-defying acrobatics that have them spinning and twirling at all levels of heights across this vast stage.
The content of the play can seem to be, at times, convoluted and complicated. The story itself is simple, yet overtly complicated. We follow three different characters through three different times and we’re always jumping from one time to another following each character as they explore the themes of heart break and addiction. Jean Cocteau opens and closes the show discussing his Lettre aux Americains and his dependence on opium set in 1949. In 1989, a young Quebecois actor finds himself in Paris on the verge of a break down because of his recent heart break. And somewhere in between we find Miles Davis in Paris, falling in love with Parisian singer Juliette Greco, torn because his love to Greco, a white woman, would never be recognized in his homeland, and ultimately the heroin addiction that follows and haunts him.
Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t know anything about Needles and Opium going into it, perhaps if I had researched the play a little bit more and read a synopsis it would have been much easier to follow; however, I found that the transition of characters and story arcs were much more confusing than they really needed to be. It felt like it took much too long for the show to fully pick up and move along theatrically. Yet, there was a completely different aspect of the play that grabbed me and held my captivation from beginning to end, the staging and lighting cues. This show is a tour de force when it comes to the complexity that it took to stage and light. The magic of what Lepage managed to bring to the stage in his cube creation and lighting design were absolutely flawless and made it feel like we, the audience, were on a drug trip as well.
This play is a very physical play that was handled amazingly by the two actors Marc Labreche and Wellesley Robertson III who wasted absolutely no stage space and were able to take the words written and directed by Lepage and turn it into a haunting poetry. While the audience doesn’t necessarily always know what is exactly happening, the actor’s fluid movements and actions keep us entranced as we fall down the rabbit hole with them.
This is a play which really captures the true essence of what theatre should be, a true all around experience which doesn’t beat us over the head with simplicity, yet is so intrinsically woven together to create a tapestry that will get us thinking and keep us talking.
Needles and Opium runs at The National Arts Centre English Theatre until June 6, 2015.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. Did you find the story to be more complicated than it needed to be as well? What did you think of the use of technology to make this play a much more intense experience? Join the discussion and tell me what you think in the comments below
A timid and meek Golyadkin faces his nightmares, his friends, his enemies and himself in A Bad New Days Production of The Double, presented by the National Arts Centre English Theatre. Read the full review.
Take Me Back to Jefferson partners The National Arts English Theatre with Theatre Smith-Gilmour in its minimalist stage adaptation of William Faulkner’s 1930 southern Gothic novel As I Lay Dying. Read the full review.
Torn between conflicting worlds, caught between the lines of man and woman, straight and gay and Africa and Canada, Tawiah M’Carthy shares the heart-wrenching, yet at times whimsical, tale of Agyeman, a young man born and raised in Ghana who moves to Canada to study, work, live and ultimately end up imprisoned in The National Arts Centre English Theatre’s Production of Obaaberima. Read the full review.
The NAC English Theatres 2014/15 Ensemble assemble once last time in the political drama, Stuff Happens, based on the backroom conversations and dogmatic aspirations of those within the Bush administration post-9/11.
Should You See It?
I have truly enjoyed this season’s 2014/15 Ensemble at the NAC English Theatre and was quite looking forward to David Ferry’s interpretation of David Hare’s Stuff Happens. The show is an immense one, as it showcases a large ensemble of actors who are playing close to 40 different characters at any given time. Stuff Happens follows the likes of George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Colin Powell and other heavy-hitters as the acting officials of the day did everything they could to manipulate the events of 9/11 and enter into Iraq on false pretenses and start a war, presented in the most Shakespearian of ways.
The biggest problem in this play is that 14 years after 9/11, we are already privy to every shocking moment this play is supposed to hold. We’ve become so desensitized to the corrupt actions of political leaders worldwide that this play doesn’t really carry the punch it would have carried when it was first premiered in 2004.
In the program the show is listed as running 2 and a half hours including an intermission. In reality, the show ran over 3 hours, with an off-kilter pacing that, I’m not kidding, put three people, within a very close vicinity to me, asleep, snores included, in the 2nd Act. The strong acting portrayed by Stuart Hughes (George W. Bush), Alex McCooeye (Colin Powell) and Greg Malone (Donald Rumsfeld) just wasn’t enough to distract from the very long and dry content that is Stuff Happens.
The best part of this show was its integration of technology into the stage. The setting itself was extremely simple, yet its sheer backdrop that allowed media to be displayed throughout the show was by far the most engaging piece in this artistic puzzle. It made up for the over the top wordy narrations that held no true significance to the story.
As the show wraps up its obvious that this show has evolved since its initial debut in 2004, as the content within the show expands on events after that date. In an attempt to seem relevant the show goes from being informative to preachy as it compares the war in Iraq to international governmental handlings of ISIS.
Overall, Stuff Happens is a show whose relevance is waning and whose run time bogs down any significant impact that it is attempting to make.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. Did you find Stuff Happens more engaging than I did? How did you feel about the shows intention to compare the present ISIS situation to that of 9/11? Let us know in the comments section below!