Swordplay: A Play of Swords

Conor-Bradbury-Julian-Frid-Kaitlin-Morrow-Seann-Murray-Danny-Pagett-SWORDPLAY-photo-by-John-Gundy

the cast of Swordplay: A Play of Swords. Photo by John Gundy.

Sex T-Rex’s Swordplay: A Play of Swords, which plays until September 11th as part of the Atlantic Fringe Festival, is a swashbuckling epic adventure of filmic scope deftly brought to life with beautiful and creative theatricality and nonstop hilarity.

As in a futuristic The Princess Bride, a grandfather, born in the 1980s, brings his sick granddaughter an old video game to play, where three Musketeer-like comrades, Roland, Salvatore and Barnabas are serving the Princess Pimpernel, when suddenly Roland burns to death in a fire and Pimpernel is kidnapped by the evil Baron Thorne. It is up to Barnabas and Salvatore to save the day. What is so wonderful about this story is that what comes next is entirely unexpected, jammed with popular culture references that are woven elegantly into the story and the characters’ development, and creatively culminating in gruesome sword fights and all the plot points coming together tightly in a most satisfying way.

Sex T-Rex is a comedy troupe made up of highly skilled improvisers, and Swordplay: A Play of Swords shows how long-form sketch comedy can be pushed to its limit where it melds into devised playwriting and Swordplay: A Play of Swords is an excellent example. The physicality of the cast combined with the imaginative vision of Director Alec Toller proves that theatre is still the perfect medium for creating the impossible. We are taken across seas, on to a dragon, through video game green tubes, and swinging from chandeliers, with immediacy and silliness abound. Simultaneously, Sex T-Rex  creates an entire world for us to wholeheartedly believe in, while also poking fun at how little they need in props and sets (foam swords, cutout set pieces, and a large piece of fabric) to achieve this feat. The fight choreography by Kevin MacPherson is both fierce and joyful, if morbidly so, and the music choices add another dimension of cinematic proportions and pop culture bliss.

Get thee forth, on thy honour, and sit thy arse down, and play.

This review has been updated & re-posted from July, 2015.

SwordPlay: A Play of Swords plays at the Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen Street) as part of The Atlantic Fringe Festival at the following times: 

Saturday Sept 3rd, 12:00PM & 11:50PM
Sunday Sept 4th, 4:50PM
Monday Sept 5th, 8:10PM
Thursday Sept 8th, 5:30PM
Friday Sept 9th, 6:45PM
Sunday Sept 11th, 1:00PM

The Princess Show

13939521_10104028841870687_222055255232282359_nAngels and Heroes and Theatre Outré’s multimedia musical The Princess Show, which plays now until September 11 as part of the Atlantic Fringe Festival, is a beautifully theatrical parable about the power of the self to empower, create, and also to destroy.

Using conventions from the world of anime and the world of camp creators Aaron Collier, Richie Wilcox and Deonie Hudson give us a strange new world for characters Princess Edward (Collier) and her boyfriend Abel (Wilcox) in a piece that is part theatre, part television, part Performance Art. As in children’s cartoons The Princess Show hinges on its protagonist’s need to go on a quest, to defeat a beast and to learn a lesson. The dialogue primarily services the plot, telling the audience information they need to know rather than worrying too much about being “realistic,” the movement is stylized with incredibly strong specificity, and Collier and Wilcox lip synch all their lines over their own pre-recorded voices. All of this creates a bit of Alienation Effect, but the cartoon imagery they are playing with that many of us associate with our childhoods also creates a striking sense of familiarity. We already know how to connect to Princess Edward and Abel because this type of parable is one we have grown up with. It’s not even surprising at the end when the moral is clearly defined for us.

It’s interesting that the most ardent way the audience connects with Princess Edward and Abel is through their movement, especially in dance and during Princess Edward’s lip synched performances. It is also interesting that, unlike in anime, Collier and Wilcox’s lip synching is perfectly timed to their recorded lines. Collier has some powerhouse performance moments where the lip synching reaches truly phenomenal heights. Indeed, there are many layers of performativity at play with these characters, in performing gender, performing as an artist, performing in society, and performing our various incarnations of self. This innate playfulness allows Collier and Wilcox to make large leaps of creative faith and to trust that the audience will leap with them.

The projected set, which includes some characters in Claymation, along with Collier’s original music, does a great job of creating Princess Edward’s futuristic world. Visually, Collier is aptly regal in an array of fanciful outfits, while Wilcox captures the parable theme vividly, looking like a sort of Hipster Geppetto from Pinocchio.

In all, The Princess Show is a very strongly performed, intelligent and theatrical parable for adults told using a creative use of a mixture of media conventions, and pulls everything together into an interesting and cohesive whole.

Theatre Outré and Angels & Heroes Theatre present:

THE PRINCESS SHOW

By Aaron Collier, Richie Wilcox, and Deonie Hudson

Multimedia-Musical – Parental Guidance

60 min – $11.00

The Bus Stop Theatre

Part of The Atlantic Fringe Festival 2016

The Bus Stop Theatre

Thursday Sept 1st, 9:40PM

Saturday Sept 3rd, 7:00PM

Monday Sept 5th, 9:40PM

Tuesday Sept 6th, 11:00PM (Volunteer Appreciation Performance!)

Thursday Sept 8th, 8:30PM

Saturday Sept 10th, 1:30PM

Sunday Sept 11th, 4:10PM

The Story of A Sinking Man

11825075_10155894771740416_16364531585806115_nAndrew Chandler gives a virtuosic performance in the solo show The Story of A Sinking Man (1994) by Morris Panych at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic as part of the Atlantic Fringe Festival.

Nash is in trouble. He is stuck in a puddle of quicksand, alone except for birds and insects, and he has realized that he is sinking down into it. This is a beautifully constructed monologue by Panych, filled with his signature Absurdism and dark humour, that comments, subtly, about metaphoric sinking while playfully exploring literal sinking.

Chandler’s comic timing here is precise and sharp and he manages to walk the fine line between creating a character that is engaging to the audience and allowing Brechtian distance as to not turn the play into a tragedy. He also creates an especially fun character in Gustav, sort of Pessimism Personified, with great physicality and vocal work. Director Dorian Lang makes great use of light, darkness, silence, and keeps the play moving with perfect pacing. We get a clear sense of time passing, and how time is intrinsic to the play’s mounting tension.   

This play is a Fringe gem. Go see it.

Salt Water Moon

11222078_10153269252094865_4328995617480639204_nI was extremely impressed by Sackville Student Theatre’s beautiful production of David French’s play Salt Water Moon (1985), which plays at the Living Room as part of the Atlantic Fringe Festival.

Set in rural Newfoundland in 1926, the play tells the story of two teenagers, Jacob and Mary, whose relationship was thwarted when Jacob left unexpectedly for Toronto. Now he has returned to find her engaged to a man he loathes and must attempt to win her back. Mary is a bitter, and practical, spitfire played by Sally Faulkner with grit, strength and intense subtly. Alex McGrath’s Jacob is charming and quick-witted, but with deep roots in his community and loyalty to his values.

Salt Water Moon is a somber piece that explores poverty and the question of whether financial security or matters of heart are more prudent ways of life. This production never descends into melodrama, maintains a captivating sense of tension and makes good use of silence; it wisely doesn’t bog itself down with attempts at accents, and the performances are nuanced and deeply felt.

If you’re looking for an evening of drama this Fringe, I highly recommend you see Salt Water Moon. These students have bright futures ahead of them.   

Salt Water Moon plays at the Living Room (2353 Agricola Street) at the following times:

Friday, September 11th at 7:50

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