Noun

13907044_10157247330925237_2529100910520245538_nBrandon Lorimer’s beautifully polished new play Noun, which plays until September 11th at the Atlantic Fringe Festival is, aptly, an exploration of language, and a quest of one young man’s attempt to find the meaning and reconstruct the history of a lost civilization from an assortment of stuff that remains in a Post-Apocalyptical World.

It is also a beautifully told story of the relationship between two vagrants (akin, in their way to the tramps in Godot), the innocent and exuberant A (Lorimer) and the more worldly and cautious B (Jeff O’Hara) as they cobble together enough for their bodies and souls to survive, while warding off the impending Troubles that threaten everyone. O’Hara and Lorimer have created two charming, intricate, quirky characters who are easy for the audience to love and care about and their joyful sense of fun is infectious. Lorimer’s playfulness of language is both creative and smart. It seems as though A and B have learned to speak English from both reading an eclectic array of old books, written in different Eras in History, and then also developed their own, often more literal, way of describing their own experiences. A’s obsession with learning what Gil Scott Heron’s Small Talk at 125th and Lenox “means” and how this grates on B’s nerves, raises questions about how we seek to learn from the past, and the limitations we face in looking back on a time that we might never understand. Do we respect our limitations and allow these artefacts to be forgotten, or do we take the risk of being “wrong” in attempt to learn something and preserve the legacy of those who have come before us?

Everything that happens onstage between A and B is beautifully constructed and very clearly presented. I liked having The Troubles as a vague, menacing, looming threat, but as the interaction between B and the Vendor became more defined at the end of the play things got a bit more unclear for me. There’s room here for Lorimer to clarify this relationship a bit. I don’t think the Vendor’s presence at the end is essential to the play, but I did enjoy her creepy and poetic performance, so I think there is likely a way to make her being there a more clearly necessary aspect of the resolution of the play.

Noun travels quickly through about a month’s worth of time and Director Annie Valentina does a beautiful job of making these transitions clear and artful. Lorimer’s sound design is also beautifully evocative of both A and B’s world and ours.

Noun is the most exciting new play I’ve seen come out of young playwright in Halifax for a long time. I hope to see another incarnation of it and soon.

Noun plays at the Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen Street) at the following times:

Mon Sept 5th, 3:10PM
Sat Sept 10th, 8:00PM & 11:10PM
Sun Sept 11th, 11:30AM

Speaking in Tongues: African Nova Scotian Storytellers

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david woods

I was so excited to see that Voices Black Theatre Ensemble have returned to the Atlantic Fringe Festival after last year’s beautiful Once: Africville Stories. The new show is called Speaking in Tongues: African Nova Scotian Storytellers and it brings some much-needed diversity of voices to the Atlantic Fringe and the Nova Scotia theatre community as a whole.

I was immediately captivated by Wanda Robson, Viola Desmond’s younger sister, who told us two stories about the strong women in her family- her mother, Gwendolin Davis, and her spirited Aunt May who, fortunately, didn’t get the memo that women at the time should be seen and not heard. Her stories are beautifully constructed and Robson is a heartfelt speaker, and does a great job of not just telling us the stories, but embodying the characters to give us a rich sense of their personalities. Vetty Thomas tells the most hilarious (and also, oddly heartbreaking) story of turkeys and bedwetting that on its own is worth the price of admission. David Woods does a gorgeous spoken word poem from the point of view of a lost, wandering woman who sees visions of Harriet Tubman. She proves both poetic and prophetic and her words are essential ones for every Nova Scotian to hear with open ears and to think on with open hearts. Nathan Simmons counters the popular, erroneous, assumption that “there are no black people in Cape Breton” by sharing the story of the Maxwell Twins, which made me want to do more reading about the History of African Nova Scotians in Cape Breton.

I was struck by how most of the stories in this show were connected immediately to the lives of the storyteller- each one a little memoir vignette. While Once was very firmly rooted in a place of the past, and the experience of Black Nova Scotians in a “Historic” time and place, Speaking in Tongues reminds us that personal history and family history are just as important an aspect of the History of a People and the History of a Place as events that time have rendered “Historic.”

Woods began the show by saying that in creating this show these storytellers had assembled enough stories to do three different shows. I hope they will mount these two and more. They are all equal parts entertaining, interesting and important. Nova Scotia is still a segregated place, and our History, and our Arts Communities are too often segregated too. It’s a fact that I know makes some people feel uncomfortable, and that many people don’t like to talk about, but I think we need to talk about it, and as white people (and I absolutely include myself in this), we need to listen. Speaking in Tongues: African Nova Scotian Storytellers is the perfect opportunity to listen. I felt lucky to be in the room. I want to know more, much more.  

Speaking in Tongues: African Nova Scotian Storytellers plays at the Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen Street) as part of the Atlantic Fringe Festival at the following times: 

Saturday Sept 3, 4:30pm
Sunday Sept 4, 12pm & 6:20pm
Monday Sept 5, 1:30
Tuesday Sept 6th, 6:20pm
Wednesday Sept 7th, 6:35pm
Saturday Sept 10, 3:00pm
Sunday Sept 11, 5:40pm

Merrily We Prance About

Screen_shot_2016-08-18_at_9.45.28_PMNed Petrie has become an Atlantic Fringe favourite over the last few years and with his one-man sketch show Merrily We Prance About this year Petrie is in finer form than ever. The show features an array of sketches, without an obvious theme tying them together, but each one highlighting the inherent absurdity in a variety of facets of American and Canadian society. 

One of Petrie’s strengths as a performer and writer is his ability to use the specificities and colloquialisms of language to firmly root his characters in a particular time and place. In one sketch he plays a Kentucky Defence Attorney giving his Closing Argument to the jury in a murder trial and it’s not just Petrie’s accent, but also his turns of phrase, that allow him to really thoroughly poke fun at a very specific Southern stereotype. In a great example of the very specific being the most universal, I also saw an immediate correlation between Petrie’s Southern lawyer and Toronto’s former Mayor Rob Ford. Similarly, Petrie uses language to root his unhinged neighbour and frisbee thief Sid Lundy in a particular place as well, and there is an interesting connection between Sid and Petrie’s awkward flirter in the Opening Sketch, as both explore the connection between masculine fragility and unbridled rage.

Petrie is an extremely affable performer and Merrily We Prance About is smart, funny and topical.   

Merrily We Prance About plays at the Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen Street) as part of the Atlantic Fringe Festival at the following times:

Saturday Sept 3rd, 1:30PM (Volunteer Appreciation Performance!)
Sunday Sept 4th, 3:20PM
Monday Sept 5th, 12:00PM & 6:40PM
Tuesday Sept 6th, 9:30PM
Wednesday Sept 7th, 11:15PM
Thursday Sept 8th, 7:00PM
Friday Sept 9th, 8:15PM
Sunday Sept 11th, 7:20PM

Callaghan! And the Wings of the Butterfly

callaghan_facebook-e1353601724625Sex T-Rex’s Callaghan! And the Wings of The Butterfly, which plays until September 11th at the Atlantic Fringe Festival, is another brilliant, rollicking adventure from this exceptional Toronto-based Comedy Troupe who are continually using long form sketch comedy to tell highly theatrical and captivating new stories.

Wings of the Butterfly introduces us to Jack Callaghan (Danny Pagett), an often brooding hero on an archaeological quest in Guatemala to find the Ancient Mayan relics, the wings of the butterfly, which hold the secret to time itself. With the help of his friends Sal (Conor Bradbury) and Walt (Julian Frid), Callaghan navigates a plethora of dangers before confronting the villainous Dr. Klaus Von Handerstopp (Seann Murray), who has disastrous plans for the butterfly wings. Callaghan must also come to terms with the fate of his wife, the savvy and intelligent Muriel (Kaitlin Morrow), in order to save the world from Handerstopp.

The story is tightly and imaginatively woven, the characters are well defined and and strongly portrayed by the cast, especially those who play multiple secondary characters as well, but I think the trademark of Sex T-Rex is how joyfully and genuinely fun their shows are to watch. From their beautifully choreographed fight sequences (Kevin MacPherson), to their self-referential asides and clever Pop Culture references, to the fun dance sequence (Robin Henderson) Callaghan: Wings of The Butterfly, like Swords: A Play of Swords keeps the audience in nonstop laughter. It is silly. It is playful. It is exactly what theatre, in its purest form, was meant to be.

Go see this gem of a show. You’ll wish you could go back in time and experience it all again.

Callaghan! And The Wings of The Butterfly plays at the Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen Street) at the following times:

Saturday Sept 3rd, 3:00PM
Sunday Sept 4th, 9:30PM
Tuesday Sept 6th, 8:00PM
Wednesday Sept 7th, 8:15PM
Friday Sept 9th, 11:15PM
Saturday Sept 10th, 6:30PM
Sunday Sept 11th, 10:20PM

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