I'm here for a few months, thanks to my friend Sheri who helped me continue my year as a happy wanderer by offering me space in her home in Toronto to live in and rehearse. The Manitoba Arts Council also gave me a grant towards my rewrite. So for now I'm in my other city, working and of course seeing theatre.
You can love the Big Smoke, you can hate it but you can't deny if you love film and theatre this is a great place to hang out for a while. This week I've seen three productions: a workshop of THE PROUST PROJECT created by Morwyn Brebner, produced by Canadian Stage as part of a spring festival of new, interdisciplinary work, FORESTS, the highly anticipated historical drama by GG-winning playwright Wajdi Mouawad and THE COSMONAUT's LAST MESSAGE TO THE WOMAN HE ONCE LOVED by Scottish playwright David Grieg.
Brebner gamely tackled the protean task of transforming Marcel Proust's A LA RECHERECHE DE TEMPS PERDU, a 60,000 page, 6 volume 19Th century novel of byzantine density into a digestible piece of physical theatre.
The talented cast of close to a dozen created a sensual, droll vision of Proust's dreamy novel. The costumes, essentially the underpinnings of 19Th century dress, a whole lot of strategically placed flowers, music, tableau, teacups, fairy lights, physical action and a very little lifted text is an evocation rather than a recreation of Proust's opus.
This was a 40 minute excerpt from what Brebner envisions as a two-hour work. I'm not sure you can do Proust justice by pussy-footing around the books as much as this current construction does, but it was lovely, charming and a lot of fun. I look forward to the next installment.
The rest of the week certainly wasn't lacking in textual density. Jennifer Tavner directed a fine cast in THE COSMONAUT"S LAST MESSAGE...at Canadian Stage's mainstage. The play is about loneliness and social and emotional isolation in a plugged-in universe. It's a beautiful piece of writing and the actors were uniformly fine if a bit uneven with the varied dialects required of them. I wondered why the director didn't just let the French guy speak French and use surtitles, which would have let the audience really have the characters' experience of trying to communicate with someone who doesn't speak the same language. Worth seeing,though my head was engaged more than my heart.
The most ambitious play I saw this week was Wadji Mouawad's FORESTS, currently selling out at The Tarragon. A three hour (with one 15 minute interval) epic saga about: war,inter-generational incest,cancer, European and Canadian history including both World Wars AND the Montreal Massacre,familial dysfunction,failed utopias and transubstantiation. If this sounds like too much for one play and one night,you'd be right.
The play alludes to Shakespeare's great history plays and tragedies, the Bible and a whole lot of complex history and theology. The writing IS beautiful but the structure is a mess. There's so much going on here you can't see the forest for the trees.
Maybe this worked better in French but GG or no, the damn thing needs an editor or it needs to be turned into a 6-part mini series for HBO. There was enough plot and more than enough characters in either one of the two acts to have made a fine night out. As it stands, this is far, far too much of a good thing.
Richard Rose, one of my favourite directors, tries to elucidate this overblown pageant but the plot twists are so frequent and at times so wacky it is hard to stay involved with the characters.
That's no fault of the actors. The stellar casts include R.H.Thomson and Vivien Endicott-Douglas who comprise the one consistent narrative thread in the nearly impenetrable story. The rest of the actors assume multiple roles and do fine work. Still the guys beside me were still trying to figure out whose kid was whose at the end of the night. That dear reader, is no one's fault but the writer's.
The language is beautiful, there are lovely scenes in the play, the richness of the ideas is unsurpassed but right now this is the intellectual equivalent of an episode of HOARDERS. There is much here of great value, but it needed to be cleaned up before anyone can be expected to enjoy three hours sitting and looking at it.