… and stockings for the ladies: A Poignant Tour-de-Force

brendan mcmurtry-howlett
As Attila Clemann, playwright of The Gesamtkunstwerk Project’s (Montreal) ... and stockings for the ladies, now playing at Eastern Front Theatre’s Supernova Festival, points out in his programme notes, there have been a wide multiplicity of work written about The Holocaust and the horrific accounts and tragic tales of unimaginable loss and cruelty from within the Concentration Camps but less is known about what happened to the survivors after the Liberation. As Clemann found out in the creation of this play, one such story of rebirth and the goodness of humanity seeking to heal the wounds inflicted by the evils of another, centers on the work of two Canadians in the displaced persons’ camp of Bergen-Belsen.
The story centers around Ted Applin, a real person, who was a member with the 84th Disarmament Group of the Royal Canadian Air Forces sent to disarm the Nazi Luftwaffe, who was instrumental for bringing extra supplies, clothes, food and along with it some fun, dignity and humanity to the survivors of Bergen-Belsen. He was especially moved by the Jewish children, 52 of them, who were rescued after being abandoned behind the Concentration Camp and left time die. Camp prisoner Luba Tryszynska found them and valiantly fought the SS Guards for the chance to take care of them among the squalor, the starvation and death at the camp.
I am overwhelmed at the idea of having to somehow capture such a mammoth experience into a brief review, so I will begin by telling you that …and stockings for the ladies is one of the greatest pieces of theatricality I have ever seen. This is the brilliant work, entirely in tight knit collaboration, of three people, Clemann, who has penned the words, Zach Fraser who directs and Brendan McMurtry-Howlett who brings it all to life. The story could be an epic film, as it has a sort of filmic intersection of story lines and a scope that brings into focus characters from varying countries who at times do not appear to be connected, but the through-line is intricately woven and all becomes clear as Clemann ties all the characters irrevocably together. Fraser uses light, sounds, puppets, a few effectively used props and set pieces and most impressively, the body of his one actor, to catapult us into the world of this place and also to hurtle us through time and space within moments between various scenes. Everything onstage is crisp, clear, vibrant, creative and playful in a way that honours the proud, complex and at times heart wrenching story that is being told while treating the audience to a myriad of haunting and staggering images with the power to haunt and immediately captivate.
Onstage, it is all Brendan McMurty-Howlett. He plays 23 different characters throughout the play and always with incredible physicality and specificity, so much so that his physical appearance seems at times to be magically transformative and oddly fluid. He captures so much of each of his characters, from the speech impediment of a little boy, to the lisp of a postal worker, not to mention nailing the accents of people from Germany, Great Britain, Amsterdam and even a young Jewish boy learning Hebrew. What also struck me, beyond pure awe, was that McMurty-Howlett gives so much exuberance and personality to each individual, but he also knows that some will be more uniquely theatrical than others. His vocal intonations sometimes vary drastically, but at other times thy only modify slightly. This keeps the play from turning into a cartoon. 
Quite frankly, McMurty-Howlett was born to do this show. It is the perfect vehicle for him to show off in an environment where one is never aware of that aspect of his performance, but only delighted and enraptured with the way he tells the story and the narrative and characters that emerge. If he keeps working at this calibre for the rest of his career, one can only dream of the heights he will reach.
There is so much to be inspired by in this play and it is brought to life with ingenuity and heart. I would get your tickets fast because this one is sure to sell out. 
…and stockings for the ladies plays one more time at the Neptune Studio Theatre on Saturday May 28th at 3pm. Tickets for adults are $25.00, Seniors/DND/Arts Workers $20.00, Students $15.00. Check the complete schedule of shows here. 
May 18-29, 2011
Adults $25, Seniors/DND/Arts Workers $20, Students $15

*Same day, multiple show discount.  We encourage you to catch a double (or triple or quadruple!) header.  Your first ticket is full price, however if you purchase tickets for a 2nd, 3rd or 4th show on the same day, those tickets are 50% off.

In person: 1593 Argyle Street    Phone: 902-429-7070   Online
All prices include HST.
Neptune service charges for phone and online orders not included.

TORONTO: …and stockings for the ladies will play at the Tarragon Theatre Extra Space (30 Bridgeman Avenue, TORONTO) June 1-5, 2011. For tickets or more information please call 

416.531.1827 or go online!!!!  

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