The Young Lady in White is about an unnamed girl in an undeveloped photograph who, alongside the doodle of a cat, waits to come to life for over seventy-six years as history unfolds in the streets beneath her.
Should you see it?
In the early 1930s, a man takes a photograph of a teenage girl experiencing her first steps of adulthood and freedom: running into the ocean wearing nothing but a flimsy white dress. The girl caught on film takes on a life of her own, first living inside the camera, then as a negative, and finally, until 2009, as one of two residents of a lonely black room.
The Young Lady in White shows us this woman’s life, from eagerly anticipating her future as an image to impatiently waiting for her artist to return from vacation to witnessing the horrors of war from a bathroom window to coming to terms with her own identity as an unfinished piece of art.
At once a sparkling fantasy, a gripping historical drama, and an introspective philosophical tale, The Young Lady in White is essentially a one-woman show starring Catriona Leger as the spirited girl from the photograph. Given that our protagonist does nothing but wait, speculate, witness events, and occasionally interact with the sketching of a cat, the character development that Leger pulls off is utterly mind-boggling. This is a tour de force performance not to be missed.
Balancing the depth and beauty of Leger’s young lady is Chada, the drawing of a cat exquisitely voiced by Zach Counsil who brings the perfect blend of arrogance, love, and playfulness to our lady’s companion. I loved the way that Chada was animated and moved around the stage. These moments of levity were so well executed, they quickly became favourites and I felt a profound sense of loss during his last appearance.
These extraordinary characters make the show feel magical and otherworldly, but the graphic scenes of war, violence, terrorism, and horror that are projected through their window out into the world remind us that these beloved heroes survive some very real and important moments in history. This play is not only a fairy-tale: it’s also a stunning, if sometimes rushed, showcase of international affairs and changing socio-political realities since 1933. A must-see for anyone interested in our past, The Young Lady in White is an emotionally charged and fascinating look at where we’ve come from and where we are now.
The addition of John Doucet as temporary visitors to the abandoned studio add some much needed variety to the show and contribute to a loose narrative. Amidst what’s going on both outside and within, the negative girl wants nothing more than to be developed into a photograph and it’s through Doucet’s characters that we come to see her hope, despair, and humanity.
The Young Lady in White is an inventive, unique, and special production that Ottawa is lucky to have. It’s an intellectual show that still manages to entertain and the acting in it is something that has to be seen to be believed.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d love to know what you think. Did you find the young lady’s understanding of world events a little far-fetched, or did you accept that as part of the show’s mystery? Was the happy ending poignant or overdone? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!