Theatreby Jessica Laurence
/ September 4, 2007
The Montreal English theatre scene
is larger and more active than many people realize. Thriving with budding
new companies, it is also in continuous expansion and exceptional performances
can be found in some of the most modest settings. Here were some of
the best shows of the year:
This was without doubt one of the best
English productions of the year. Set in a hospital ward, it’s a powerful
one-woman mask show. The talented Anana Rydvald managed to be both lovable
and believable as she played each of her characters, making the audience
laugh and cry as this heart-warming story unfolded.
Fallen Angel Productions’ second show
this year was well done. Though at times lengthy, this deep and dark
play by George F. Walker was nominated as the best show of the year
by the Mirror’s “Best of Montreal 2007 Readers Poll.”
SideMart Equity Coop delivered an awesome
piece of work with this David Mamet play. Using the MainLine Theatre,
this resourceful company made creative use of an actual dressing room
by setting it up as the stage and when actors left the “stage” they
were literally exiting the building! This novel element to the show
gave the audience a heightened sense of awareness and of reality. Coupled
with an amazing cast, the show was an unmistakable hit.
I Am Yours
Tableau d’Hôte handled Judith Thompson’s
intense and challenging play marvelously. The cast managed to tell a
harsh and poignant story with surprising ease.
The Lady Smith
This production by the Black Theatre
Workshop was a pleasant yet thought-provoking play, beautifully written
and with well-rounded, true-to-life characters. Gifted playwright Andrew
Moodie often writes about the Canadian black middle-class giving black
actors more performance opportunities.
To the Green Fields Beyond
Persephone Productions’ play about
a tank crew in the fall of 1918 was another success. The cast’s cohesion
and camaraderie onstage were almost palpable holding the play together
beautifully as this disconcerting story was revealed.
Alice in Wonderland
Geordie Productions’ version of this
classic tale was brilliantly done. Actors on bikes would wheel in long
tables as sets for each scene, an innovative design concept lending
a unique and whimsical spin to a familiar story.
Housekeeping and Homewrecking :
This was one of the big highlights at
the Fringe Festival this year. The show was stripped down to the bare
necessities of theatre. With a simple script and an even simpler set
(black boxes with words written in chalk were used to set the scene),
the actors relied greatly on each other. Under less skilled hands the
play could have easily fallen short but the talented cast presented
a stimulating, sincere, and reflective piece.
The Centaur Theatre produced this charming
play last winter. Rosemary Dunsmore delivered a delightful interpretation
of American “soprano” Florence Foster Jenkins, a woman who became
famous precisely because she had absolutely no singing ability!
Scapin the Schemer / Les fourberies
Repercussion Theatre, with 18 years of
Shakespeare under its belt, took a risk and put on a Molière this year
using a completely bilingual cast. The play was performed both in English
and in the original French version; it’s truly a unique Montreal accomplishment.
Hopefully, other Quebec companies will be inspired by this bold move
and follow suit.
This Leanor and Alvin Segal Theatre production
was entertaining and quite inspiring despite some drawbacks. Mozart
(Damien Atkins) was in a persistent battle with his wig, constantly
brushing errant strands of hair away from his face thus lessenng his
credibility. His wife, Constanze (Brigitte Pogonat) didn’t seem to
be completely comfortable with her role and therefore, didn’t appear
convincing either. Her strong French accent made her somewhat difficult
to understand despite her best efforts. Salieri (Jean Marchand) and
the rest of the cast, however, looked and sounded wonderful. The stately
set, designed by Yannik Larivée, was impressive. It was a beautiful
reminder of the power and grandeur larger theatres can exude.
Romeo and Juliet
Centaur Theatre’s presentation of this
classic tale of love, was a bit of a disappointment. Seeming to do too
many things at once, this interpretation doesn’t effectively communicate
its raison d’être. Despite their obvious talent, the actors
performed under absurd contexts. There were various inexplicable and
vague elements in this show: the convenient yet unjustifiable crowbars
that would appear only when a sword fight was about to insue, the strange
ski-mask fights and even more ridiculous, the haphazard light transitions.
All of these incidents left audience members scratching their heads
in bewilderment throughout the show.
Here’s what to look out for this
This brand-new play written by a young Montreal playwright will be showing
at Infinitheatre in October.
Fallen Angel Productions.
Jehanne of the Witches:
Diary of Anne Frank:
Centre Enemy of the People:
Written by Miles Potter, at the Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts
A new production by Sabooge Theatre, will be playing October
12th, 13th and 14th at the Centaur. It was performed in 2005 during
the New Classical Theatre Festival and is a definite must-see. It promises
a stellar cast and a simple yet unbelievably ingenious set.
For a more complete listing of all the
English shows to come this season, pick up a free QDF (Quebec Drama
Federation) theatre calendar which is available at various artistic