Celebrating theatre below the mainstream, the third annual Undercurrents festival recently announced its line-up and solidified the Great Canadian Theatre Company as the place to be for innovative and original theatre in February.
There was a pretty fair turn out for eats and drinks in the 2nd floor lobby of the Irving Greenberg Theatre this past Thursday to hear festival director, Patrick Gauthier, announce the line-up for what’s grown into a very popular little festival for Ottawa over the past few years. If you’ve been to any major productions recently, you wouldn’t have been able to turn around without seeing somebody you recognized.
The six show plus one line-up for the festival were selected by Patrick Gauthier with feedback from GCTC Artistic Director, Eric Coates. They include three local companies, three national companies, two world premieres, and two that are getting another shot in front of Ottawa audiences after being huge hits from this past summer’s Ottawa Fringe Festival. Gauthier, who we’ll be talking to about the festival on an upcoming episode of Talking Theatre, says of the line-up:
This year’s Festival showcases creators who are taking risks and challenging the medium. All tell great stories and tell them in innovative ways.
Thought I’d start with the photos this time. All photos in this gallery, plus the feature image and all non-credited images in the article, were taken for Production Ottawa by Production Ottawa photographer David Pasho. Check out the much larger gallery over on our Facebook page.
Little Orange Man
Let’s just start with the elephant in the room. Little Orange Man made its Ottawa debut at Fringe this year in a church basement BYOV. By halfway into Fringe, just about everybody who’d seen it answered Little Orange Man when I asked what their one recommendation was. After finally seeing the show on the second last day of Fringe, I, too, was raving about it, and count it among my top theatre experiences. Without repeating myself, you can read mine and Matthew Champ’s reviews right here.
Suffice to say, it will be my personal mission to see that this show sells out the much-larger-than-a-church-basement GCTC Studio and am sure I’ll see it more than once my own self.
Little Orange Man: Meet Kitt, a high-octane Danish girl, whose greatest delight comes from re-enacting her grandfather’s grisly folk tales to young neighbourhood children. Kitt invites the audience to play and connect by firing up some inventive homemade technology to extract and re-enact the audience’s dreams. A Snafu Dance Theatre (Victoria, BC) production. Co-created and Directed by Kathleen Greenfield, co-created and performed by Ingrid Hansen
Little Orange Man won outstanding overall production at Ottawa Fringe 2012, Pick of the Fringe and Vancouver Playhouse Award at Vancouver Fringe 2011 and Pick of the Fringe at Victoria Fringe 2011.
Hip Hop Shakespeare Live Music Videos
Let’s continue with another of the easy ones. Try as you might, you’d be hard-pressed to see everything at Ottawa Fringe. I think I managed two-thirds of the shows this year but that was still close to twenty I just wasn’t able to see. Hip Hop Shakespeare Live Music Videos is at the top of the the shows I wished I’d been able to make time for. Just on concept alone, you have to be intrigued a little bit. Unless you have a strong aversion to Hip Hop music. If I was looking forward to having another shot when Patrick Gauthier announced it, I was triply so after Melanie Karin and David Benedict Brown took the stage and performed one of the songs from the show at the launch. You can read Kurt’s review from Fringe this year, right here.
Hip Hop Shakespeare: Live Music Videos!: A 411 Dramaturgy Co. (Ottawa, ON) production. Setting the works of rappers like Jay-Z, Tupac, Notorious B.I.G. and Kanye West to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo & Juliet and more, this 50-minute live show perfectly encapsulates 21st century mash-up culture. This is the ultimate celebration of the power of rhythmic language in a remixed world. Created and Performed by: Melanie Karin and David Benedict Brown.
Hip Hop Shakespeare Live Music Videos won Outstanding Concept award at Ottawa Fringe 2012.
The Ladies of the Lake
That’s where first hand accounts and praise has to end. From here on, the best I can do is speak to the merits of the performers and companies to try and give you an idea what you can expect.
Which brings us to Skeleton Key Theatre’s world premiere of Ladies of the Lake. The show was created by Kate Smith, Catriona Leger, and John Doucet. It stars John Doucet and Kate Smith – who audiences may have been fortunate to see at the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival or in Snapshot earlier this year and who is also Artistic Director of Salamander Theatre for Young Audiences. It’s being directed by Catriona Leger, director of the pretty well perfect A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the St. Lawrence Shakespeare festival over the summer and who we had a brilliant chat about directing with (along with Teri Loretto-Valentik) in a recent episode of Talking Theatre. By pedigree of the creators and virtue of them being the GCTC’s company-in-residence this year this should be a highly anticipated show.
Ladies of the Lake: A physically devised piece that blends evocative movement, original music, and text to create the imagined story of the Lady of the Lake from the Arthurian legend. This premiere culminates Skeleton Key Theatre’s term as GCTC’s Theatre Company in Residence.
This one’s another that can only be recommended on pedigree of the talent. The names of Alix Sideris (who you can see in Pride and Prejudice at the NAC over the next few weeks), Kelly Rigole, and Kristina Watt alone should be enough to gain your interest if you’ve seen them on stage in the past year. Joining them as co-creators/writers of this world premiering show are Nick Carpenter, Sarah Finn, Chantal Hayman, Anne Janelle, Annie Lefebvre, Martha Ross, and Doreen Taylor-Claxton.
Skin: What if you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin? Your professional, domestic, ancestral, or your next of kin skin? Inspired by the Selkie legend (seals that shed their skins to become humans on land), SKIN explores the desire to shed one’s role and what gets left behind. Fiercely funny, dramatic and explosively physical, SKIN incorporates singing, live original music built upon the constellations of freckles, moles and scars of each performer. A Deluxe Hot Sauce (Ottawa, ON) production.
From here on, I don’t even have the benefit of being able to laud the artists or companies with these last two being the two other national companies in the festival. This is a good thing though, because let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be very interesting if we already knew what to expect from everything from the outset. It’s nice to be able to go in with few expectations on occasion. (And that’s not at all to say that these last two shows won’t be great, or that the others are guaranteed to be your cup of tea.) What’s interesting about Little Iliad is that it truly fits the bill of “challenging the medium.”
Little Iliad: Two childhood friends reconnect on Skype. One is a Canadian soldier on his way to Afghanistan; the other is a writer who wants them to create a performance together based on a little-known fragment from the Trojan War. One performer is live and the other is a projection on a small, blank, clay figurine, with the audience listening in on headphones. Little Iliad is a disarmingly simple and intimate performance, part reading, part film, part poignant biographical content.
An Evan Webber & Frank Cox-O’Connell and Harbourfront Centre (Toronto, ON) production, in association with Cork Midsummer Festival and the Banff Centre. Created and performed by Evan Webber and Frank Cox-O’Connell.
I’m intrigued, to say the least. And note that this show has max seating at only thirty (less than half of the other shows) but does double duty with two shows on every day that it runs. Keep this in mind when booking tickets.
The Public Servant
This one I saved for last only because I have the least to say about it. The order I listed the shows in was in no way an attempt to comment on quality, just on how much I had to offer on what we might be able to expect from them.
Really, Undercurrents could have the sub-slogan — “Something for everybody.” — because every show is pretty different in style and tone from the next. Just as well, with the exception of die-hard theatre geeks, it’s a fair bet most people won’t love every show at the festival. Everybody’s mileage will vary.
As for The Public Servant, this fits in with the something for everybody line because it feels like the closest to a “mainstream” type show. (And that could certainly end up being far from the truth.) Given that one of the hit shows from the 2012 Undercurrents, Carmen Aguirre’s Blue Box, is about to hit the GCTC mainstage in January, the 2013 incarnation of Undercurrents could be testing out The Public Servant with hopes of mainstagedom next year. Be that or not, it certainly does seem like a show fit for Ottawa given the subject matter.
The Public Servant: A tragic-comic theatrical portrait of the women who manage the affairs of the country, The Public Servant offers a glimpse into the working life of a federal employee. The material for this play was mined from the events and practices of the different generations of Canadian civil servants going back to the 1930’s. A Theatre Columbus (Toronto, ON) production. Created by Jennifer Brewin, Haley McGee, Sarah McVie and Amie Rutherford. Directed by Jennifer Brewin.
As with all shows in Undercurrents (excepting perhaps those that have already been hugely successful), we will see what we see in February.
Don’t think I forgot about the (fresh and tasty) plus one of “six shows plus one.” As a special bonus to the line-up, small audiences (only 10 people per show!) will get to take part in a twenty minute interactive show that will see them making and taking home their own fresh loaf of bread.
Bread: Here’s your chance to make some theatre and eat it too! This interactive interstitial performance runs approximately 20 minutes and takes place in the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre lobby before and in between Festival performances. Bread is an audience participation project built around the making and baking of bread. Seth and Ruby are leaving the neighbourhood, forever and have invited 10 of their best friends over to teach them how to make bread. Ten friends are invited into the “kitchen” to mix and knead dough as Seth and Ruby deal with the impending change in their lives. Each friend will make a single loaf, which will rise and bake as they go off and enjoy other productions at the undercurrents festival. At the end of the evening they will get to take home their very own loaf of fresh baked bread. Created and Performed by Karen Balcome and Geoff McBride. Concept developed in collaboration with Kevin Orr and Theatre 4.669
And that’s Undercurrents. As in years past, the Fritzi Gallery on the 2nd Floor of the GCTC will be host to an Undercurrents themed gallery of images throughout Undercurrents, with its vernissage on Thursday February 7th.
Undercurrents itself runs from February 5th to 7th with shows taking place every night at 7pm and 9pm and weekend shows happening at 1pm, 3pm, 7pm, and 9pm. Tickets are $15 per show or you can get a three or six show pass for $40 and $60 respectively. Bread isn’t included in the multi-show passes and is pay-what-you-can.
Most of y’all are thinking, February’s still three months away, but I can tell you – and you should have gathered from reading – that tickets are probably going to go quick for what are going to be highly anticipated shows. If you buy less than the three show pass, you’re doing yourself a disservice (especially since that’s more or less the cost of a regular show ticket) so buy your tickets to everything that interests you — especially Little Orange Man — without delay.
Do that by calling the GCTC Box Office at 613.236.5196, visiting the kind folks there in person at 1233 Wellington, or being all technical and buying them online.
Oh, and if that isn’t enough theatre for you – yes, I’m up to eight reasons already – Third Wall will be presenting their production of God of Carnage on the GCTC mainstage throughout Undercurrents. More on that closer to the date.
Take that February.