Happy Hobo In Moonland

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rhys bevan-john and dragon

At a time when many children lack the opportunities to play unstructured games and the freedom to use their imaginations both at school and at home comes a beautiful show for children from Rhys Bevan-John called Happy Hobo in Moonland. Bevan-John, with the help of beautiful masks and puppets, plays a multitude of characters, from a Grandpa Wizard Hobo, to a dragon and even the moon, but mostly he guides his audience into helping him create their magical words through harnessing their own creative minds. We get to play and engage with the characters, as opposed to simply watching something created for us by someone we can’t see.

The story is clear and tightly constructed. Happy Hobo, with the help of his friend Crow, must go to Moonland to help his Grandpa Wizard Hobo rescue Pan, the spirit of nature, from the evil aynrynd, who steals dreams and fosters laziness and unhappiness. There are some beautiful messages woven into the story, but Bevan-John firmly roots his tale in fun, silliness and a full hearted love for play. Adults will leave uplifted. Children will relish in the permission to do what is most natural for them- use their imaginations.   

The Happy Hobo in Moonland plays at the Waiting Room (6040 Almon Street) at the following times:

Saturday September 12th at 1:30pm

Sunday September 13th at 3:25pm

White Rabbit Red Rabbit

rabbit rabbit

rabbit

White Rabbit Red Rabbit by Nassim Soleimanpour is a play with no rehearsal and no director that can only be performed by an actor who has never seen the script before once. DMV Theatre has been presenting White Rabbit Red Rabbit, with a different actor each evening, since Sept 24th, 2013. In my experience, having seen the play with four different actors over the last week, I strongly recommend that audience members go into the experience, and it is an experience more than it is a play in the conventional sense of that word, as blindly as the actor does. So, with that said, if you have not seen White Rabbit Red Rabbit I would advise you to stop reading this “review” now and come back to it after you have had your first experience with the play. That is just a suggestion; however, your choice is up to you.

White Rabbit Red Rabbit was written by an Iranian playwright, Nassim Soleimanpour, in 2010 at a time when Soleimanpour did not have a passport, and therefore could only leave Iran through the words of his play. Since simultaneously being produced by Toronto’s Volcano Theatre and The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with dramaturgy by Ross Manson and Daniel Brooks, White Rabbit Red Rabbit has been performed in venues all over the world and has been translated into fifteen different languages.

My experience with White Rabbit Red Rabbit has been a fascinating one. I have seen four performers tackle Soleimanpour’s script: Samantha Wilson, Rhys Bevan-John, Kathryn MacLellan and Ann-Marie Kerr and each evening it has come alive in a brand new way that the audience experiences together. It is vulnerable and communal and Soleimanpour is present in every line, dramatically and unexpectedly. There is an element of danger implicit in the text and it reminds us that even though we have become conditioned, as Canadian citizens, to feel safe, that danger is actively all around us. We are all in the process of dying, after all. We are encouraged to understand that just because we, at the Bus Stop Theatre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, are very certain that there is nothing to fear, that we are able to trust the conventions of our society, our city, our theatre and our country, that this is not the same for all people everywhere and will not necessarily be the same for us in the future.

The play works on a beautiful metaphorical level. It is about theatre as much as it can be seen as being about the constructions of our societies. It encourages us to question our conventions of authority, our own willingness to be obedient, to be passive, to do what is expected of us, and also how far we trust those that sit with us in the theatre, who share our community, who make the decisions or climb toward leadership. These are not necessarily the ideas of Nassim Soleimanpour, he has just provided us with the framework, with the potential for something powerful to happen and for deep discussions to emerge. The way that each audience member interprets his story of the white and red rabbits will be different, and does not necessarily capture the playwright’s intention. Or, perhaps it was his intention to facilitate endless possible explanations.

For me the play draws connections between the playwright’s words being the authority of a text and the actors who have been conditioned to submit to this authority. The audience are the passive witnesses, who watch the actors carry out the playwright’s plans. This can be seen as being a metaphor for how a government, or any hierarchy of power, works in most societies in the world. How complicit are we, the silent majority, in the actions that our Prime Minister makes? Is it partially my fault, for example, that Tarek Loubani and John Greyson are still being held without trial in Egypt?

While watching White Rabbit Red Rabbit the first time my mind was spinning with thoughts of how this play mirrors societal constructions and I focused ardently on Soleimanpour and wondered about his life in Iran and tried to compare my imagined sense of his experience there with my own experience here. While I felt very connected to Soleimanpour in all four performances, while watching Rhys Bevan-John and then Kathryn MacLellan and then Ann-Marie Kerr my focus began to shift from my experience in the audience toward the experience of the actor standing before me. I realized that White Rabbit Red Rabbit also exposes the process of the actor to the audience. Watching the way the actor engages with the script, with the playwright and with the audience reveals so much about the vulnerable and complex ideas that each particular actor has about his or her role in the creation of the theatre. This is also intrinsically linked to each actor’s own distinct personality and psychology. Therefore, White Rabbit Red Rabbit can be seen as an exploration of our societies’ relationship to authority and the audience’s relationship to a play, and also an exploration of the actor’s relationship to a performance text and the actor’s relationship to the audience.

White Rabbit Red Rabbit has been a fascinating theatrical adventure for me. Each time I experience the anxiety of not knowing so beautifully inherent to the theatre and I remember that, really, we never know anything in life for certain either. Any moment could be our last, although we are fairly certain it won’t be; the possibility of the unexpected and the unknown, like an envelope with a script in it that we’ve never seen before, is always there. Ultimately, that is what makes each moment so vividly alive.

White Rabbit Red Rabbit plays at 8pm at the Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen Street) until October 5th, 2013. Tickets are $15.00 and available at this website or at the door. There will be a different actor for each performance and the remaining artists are: Chris Shore, Susan Stackhouse and Pasha Ebrahimi. If you come more than once all return tickets are only $5.00. Come join the experience. 

Together We Are More

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photo by timothy richard

Misery Loves (Theatre) Company’s new show Together We Are More is a quiet, poetic reflection on the ways that we experience a world around us that is often terrific and often tragic.

Mary Fay Coady and Ailsa Galbreath exemplify two disparate personalities. Coady wants to bounce. Galbreath is grounded in her crossword puzzle and keeps stepping on Coady’s exuberance. It becomes clear that Coady’s wide smile is a cover for a vulnerable pain, or the potential to someday encounter vulnerable pain. It is an armor as much as Galbreath’s exasperated pessimism. They have a mysterious box, which is kept locked, but both toy with the idea of taking a risk and opening it up, even though it may bring them extreme joy or it may bring them extreme hurt. It may even bring both.

Together We Are More becomes a metaphor for taking a risk, for recognizing that we are all wounded creatures, continually stitching up our hearts, building up our thicker skin while still grasping for joy, for connection, for the possibility of the beautiful, terrific, ecstasy.

Directed by Rhys Bevan-John, Together We Are More plants the creative seeds of powerful questions into the human spirit but allows the audience full freedom to piece its non-linear structure together and to infer a myriad of different conclusions. It is an insightful, whimsical and heartrending play and a nice compliment to last year’s The Perfection of Man. 

TWISI Rating: 

4 and a half stars

Together We Are More at the Atlantic Fringe Festival has closed. 

Amanda’s 2013 Atlantic Fringe Festival Picks

Fringe experiment 2013

The Atlantic Fringe Festival

A friend of mine in Toronto refers to the Fringe as “Theatre Christmas” and it is with that same giddy spirit that I will be heading to bed on this, the Night Before Fringe, the beginning of the most wonderful time of the year. The Atlantic Fringe Festival begins on August 29th, 2013, the largest it has ever been, with over fifty different shows in eleven venues throughout Halifax’s downtown and North End and I feel exceptionally fortunate and immensely excited to be able to see them all!

You may be wondering why I consider the Fringe to be the most exciting time of the year to go to the theatre. Perhaps the word “Fringe” conjures up for you images of shoddy production values and a lack of professional polish. While it is true that Fringe Festivals are not juried and therefore open to amateurs, emerging artists and professionals, that is part of what makes the Festival so exciting! Firstly, I love Fringe because it gives me the opportunity to see work by artists who may not have the financial means to produce their shows outside of a Festival setting, but who show incredible talent, proficiency and promise in their craft. These are artists who can continue to hone their skills and may eventually grow out of Fringe to establish a company, as 2b Theatre’s Anthony Black and Christian Barry did, that will become a cornerstone of Nova Scotia’s indigenous theatre industry. Secondly, I love Fringe because it allows more established companies to take larger risks with their work, to wiggle free of any oppressive mandates they may have, and to take a chance on a new work that may not be ideal for a larger house, but may be far more interesting. Thirdly, I love Fringe because it is the young Canadian playwright’s domain. There are still not enough Nova Scotian stories being told on the stage, and even fewer that maneuver their way through all the dramaturgical hoops to eventually find a place on a Mainstage or touring the rest of the country or the world. The Fringe is the birth place of so many seminal Canadian theatrical works and every year brings with it the hope that at least one will go on to be given life again in workshops and remounts of the future. Lastly, I love Fringe because it is one of the few times that Halifax audiences are treated to a wide array of work from visiting artists, many of whom have received accolades and had sold-out and hit shows elsewhere in the country and the world. Like the performers that come each August to Halifax’s International Busker Festival, who are professional street performers, there are many extraordinary theatre artists who make a career of touring their professional caliber shows to International Fringe Festivals. This truly brings theatre to the masses and makes world class theatre accessible to thousands of people who could not otherwise afford to attend productions at regional or other more “mainstream” theatres.

The challenge is, of course, how to decide which shows to pick? It’s a terrific question! So, here, just for you, are my TOP MUST SEE PICKS for Atlantic Fringe 2013.

  1. 1.      What: 937. Who: Two Planks and a Passion Theatre. Why: I saw an early version of this piece, centered on a ship of Jewish refugees seeking asylum from the Nazis told through beautiful, simple and unexpected puppetry. It is haunting, tear jerking and important. Where: Neptune Studio Theatre.
  2. 2.      What: Alone. Who: Kazan Co-Op. Why: From the company that brought Halifax audiences Daniel MacIvor’s Communion and I, Animal, I’m excited to see this new work by Sherry Lee Hunter. It is a departure for Kazan and the work of a veteran Nova Scotian theatre artist who teaches a lot but, in recent years, performs in the theatre rarely, so I am very excited to see Alone! Where: Museum of Natural History
  3. 3.      What: Bill Wood Is Magic Who: Bill Wood. Why: Former Picnicface star Bill Wood did a similar hit magic and comedy show last year in the Fringe Festival and it truly is a magical experience. His wit and charm radiates pure joy and his magic confounds his audiences in wonder, amazement and a relishing of trickery. Where: Plan B
  4. 4.      What: Universal Babble. Who: Lions Den Theatre. Why: I saw these two short David Ives plays as part of a larger series last Spring and was incredibly impressed with both of them. The Universal Language features a STELLAR performance from Colleen MacIsaac and Babels in Arms is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen Lions Den do. Together, they are great! Where: DanSpace
  5. 5.      What: UnSex’d Who: Written by Daniel Judes and Jay Whitehead, directed by Richie Wilcox. Why: Coming from Lethbridge, Alberta but directed by Cape Breton’s own Richie Wilcox, this play about boy players in Shakespeare’s time is described as “one part All About Eve, one part Macbeth, ten parts TMZ and all parts wicked, nasty, fun.” Given my previous experience with Wilcox’s work, I would guess that this depiction is entirely accurate. .Where: The Bus Stop Theatre

Other Fringe Shows That I Think Are Worth The Gamble:

  • Alien by Annie Valentina directed by Margaret Legere. After Valentina’s work in Touch and Legere’s work in The Good For Nothings this pairing is likely a match made in Heaven.
  • B Side by Arlin Dixon. Performed by Dartmouth boy Matthew Gorman and produced by Cart/Horse Theatre in Toronto, I have seen some incredible work from this Artistic Team in the past.
  • Bend by Ian Mullan. I have yet to go to an Ian Mullan show and not have a good time.
  • Call Mr. Robeson by Tayo Aluko. Coming to us from England via Carnegie Hall, with rave reviews from The Guardian, BroadwayWorld, The Scotsman and tons more, this show looks like a sure-fire triumph!
  • Go To Hell by Michael Best. With a cast of Matthew Lumley, Jim Fowler, Tara Doyle, Gordon White, Michael Best and Dawny Negus Jr. I am already sold.
  • Phaedra’s Bed by Kim Parkhill. I thoroughly enjoyed Kim in last year’s Athena In Love and am looking forward to her and Garry Williams teaming up on a new project.
  • Suicide Monologues by Jackie Kinley. Inspired by patient work and featuring a cast that includes Jeremy Webb and Keelin Jack, this is likely to be harrowing, heartfelt and poignant.
  • Together We Are More by Mary Fay Coady and Alisa Galbreath. From Misery Loves (theatre) Company and directed by Rhys Bevan-John, from whence the brilliant Perfection of Man came from last Fringe, I am excited to see what the theatre gods have conjured up for us this year.

I will borrow this from my friend Derrick Chua, who has seen more Fringe theatre shows than anyone I know, and who each July posts a similar list of Fringe picks for Toronto Fringe on his Facebook page. “For the most part, I’ve chosen these shows because of the artists involved – artists whose work I know and admire. Many of these shows are brand new world premieres, so who knows what may actually happen when they get on stage. But there are a whole lot of hard-working talented artists who deserve your support, so I hope to see you at the Fringe seeing as many shows as you can! Absolutely feel free to forward this, use any part of it if you would like, anything to help promote the Fringe and the wonderful artists and shows involved. And feel free to add or send me info about any shows that YOU would recommend that aren’t here.”

For more information about The Atlantic Fringe Festival please visit this website. To book your tickets please visit this website or call 902.422.7604.

I hope to see you at a play!

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