The name Stewart Legere has been a common one amongst patrons of Halifax’s rapidly growing independent theatre scene for the last number of years. Legere has forged an impressive career here, working primarily with Zuppa Circus Theatre and winning a Robert Merritt Award in 2007 for his performance in their play Penny Dreadful. Since the creation of Zuppa’s shows is collaborative by nature it is not surprising that as Legere began to strike out on his own that he would take a hand in creation process of his new work as well. This was apparent in last Spring’s A Rescue Demonstration, which he created with Katie Swift and director Ann-Marie Kerr. Now, Stewart Legere is stepping out on stage as the sole performer of El Camino or The Field of Stars, his own play. Remember his name because I guarantee he will very soon become a household name with those who value great theatre in Halifax, and his performances will be eagerly anticipated in theatre cities across the country.
It’s hard to start, Stewart tells us upfront, sheepishly treating us to what could have at one time been the beginning of a British Vaudeville act. I couldn’t help but be reminded of a performer like Daniel MacIvor as Legere continually layered his play with references to our current situation, a group of strangers sitting together in a theatre, with recounted tales always told with such an earnest spontaneity, conversational tangents and an utmost ease that blurred the lines between “being” and “performing” along with the sense of how much we were watching Legere “play” a character and how much we were watching him “be” himself. Regardless, as he reminds us, it doesn’t matter, “things need not to have happened in order to be true.”
Stewart Legere is one of those people who exudes affability, charm and pure joy. He does this offstage, but onstage especially, with his bright eyes and his warm smile and that twinkle of impishness that shines through just enough, his magic lies in being able to make rooms filled with people fall instantly and madly in love with him. He is a delight to watch; he has the ability to nourish your soul, just by being there in the room with you and telling stories. He also has quick comic timing and fun and distinct miming skills.
The stories that Legere tells throughout this play seem to paint a vivid and beautiful portrait of the natural world, the place that we forge for ourselves within it and the relationships we build there. He speaks of ancient cathedrals in Italy and a Spanish field of stars which suggests the possibility of the idyllic. Yet, very subtly, as the play progresses we see that regardless of what ambiance of paradigm that Legere takes us to in his imagination, reality always creeps in, and even prejudice and homophobia, can cleverly seep into even the most far off and distant fairy tale-like places. This never entirely ruins the beauty of the story, but it makes the beauty complicated and blemished, as is so often the case in life.
Christian Barry directs Legere, giving him magical lighting, a genuine surprise and shrewd parameters for when jokes can be milked and when best to move on. Barry’s work on this show is so sharp that it seems absolutely effortless and almost absent, which, in this case, means it is about as perfect as you could hope for.
If El Camino or The Field of Stars is any indication, Stewart Legere has a bright future ahead of him and my hunch is that this is only the beginning of the development of this play and of his foray into being the playwright and performer of fascinating, entertaining and lovely solo shows.
El Camino or The Field of Stars plays at the Bus Stop Theatre as part of the Queer Acts Festival in conjunction with The Plutonium Playhouse, at the following times:
July 20th– 8:00pm
July 21st– 6:30pm
July 22nd– 6:30pm