The Men in White

A drama by Anosh Irani (Bombay Black) that is shortlisted for the GG prize, and directed by Philip Akin held great promise. But somehow it did not work.

It seemed to be a comedy and had some very funny characters and lines delivered with great panache by some very funny actors. But underlying the humour was a note of menace, so the ending, while shocking, was not really surprising.

Irani has presented some truths about the Indian experience in Canada that are not often discussed and should be. Old resentments and hatreds come with immigrants and cannot just be paved over by a “we are all Canadian now” facade. They need to be addressed.

I can only conclude that the structure got in the way of the message. Writing a comedy with a serious message is very hard and Irani did not quite manage it.

Huse Madhavji as Baba was terrific. Chanakya Mukherjee as Hasan was very funny. Gugun Deep Singh as Abdul delivered a gripping performance. The rest of the cast were also very good.


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The Children

Playwright Lucy Kirkwood poses an interesting question in this drama: would you sacrifice yourself for future generations?

It takes a long time for the three characters Hazel (Laurie Paton), Rose (Fiona Reid) and Robin (Geordie Johnson) to get to the question. They talk about old times, ask about children and grandchildren and whatever happened to various old friends. All the time, you are wondering: why has Rose come?

Eventually, the truth comes out and the question is asked and answered. We left the theatre wondering what we would do?

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Come From Away

We finally got to see this show and it was everything that everyone said it would be. Funny, great music, dancing and a heart warming story that makes you proud to be Canadian.

It is such an ensemble piece that pointing anyone out seems unnecessary. That said, I did notice Kevin Vidal as Bob and others, Jack Noseworthy as Kevin T, Garth  and others, George Masswohl as Claude and others, and Lisa Horne and others.

We left the performance feeling happy and hopeful that the world is not actually going to hell, in spite of all evidence to the contrary in the daily news.

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The Baroness and the Pig

This is a Canadian play by Michael McKenzie, originally developed and produced by the National Arts Centre. The choice of subject seems an odd one, since Canada has no baronesses, although we do have lots of pigs! In any case, it was a fascinating play that kept the audience engrossed from beginning to end.

Yanna McIntosh was terrific as the Baroness, trying so hard to turn this uneducated wild child into a polished maid. By turns funny, snobbish, frustrated and sad, she demonstrated the full range of her considerable acting talents. Julia Course was fantastic as the pig. The role is extremely physical and it must be a challenge just to get through the two hours. But she was funny, and sad and fierce. She too is a wonderfully talented actor.

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Henry V

This is the first play by Shakespeare to be done at the Shaw Festival. It fit perfectly with the remembrance theme, since it was done as a rehearsal of Henry V by a group pf soldiers in the trenches in WWI. This actually happened on the same bill as O’Flaherty VC.

The device was very successful, aided in no small part by the very talented group of eight actors all of whom had to transition between playing a soldier in the trench and rehearsing a part or several in Henry V well enough to carry the dialogue in the two frames. Gray Powell was great as Henry V and as the leader of the soldiers. Tremendous support came from Damien Atkins, Patrick Galligan, Ric Reid, Cameron Grant, Kristopher Bowman and Graeme Somerville. The final scene of the first act was beautifully staged, with the troop going over the top of the stair case.

In the second act, the soldiers are in hospital and the action is now supported by the nurses who use the play to get the men to come out of their depression. Julia Course, Claire Julien, Yanna McIntosh and Natasha Mumba pick up the roles in the play and then toss them back to the soldiers to carry on.

This was a very interesting presentation of Henry V. It used Shakespeare’s characters and dialogues in a very different but very powerful way. Purists may hate it, but I thought it was terrific.

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O’Flaherty V.C.

Bernard Shaw wrote this short anti-war play in 1915 and it premiered in Treizennes. Artois in 1917. It must have been odd for the soldiers to see an anti-war play in the middle of the war zone!

The cast included Ben Sanders as O’Flaherty, Patrick McManus as General Sir Pearce Madigan, Tara Rosling as Mrs O’Flaherty and Gabriella Sundar Singh as Teresa.

Sanders was delightful as the hero, bemused by his success and terrified of his mother. He is a realist, not a cynic, who shocks the General with his views on war. Patrick McManus has perfected the art of the bluster. Tara Rosling has the Irish mother down pat.

Shaw writes good dialogue and was definitely on top of his form with this play. Short, to the point, and funny.

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Oh What a Lovely War

Peter Hinton did a masterful job of making this 1963 British play about World War One seem relevant by refocusing it on Canadian battles and troops and even adding history from Niagara on the Lake and the role of the Royal George Theatre in entertaining the troops being trained nearby.

For the first fifteen minutes I was skeptical and assumed i would leave at the intermission. But gradually I got caught up in the action and ended up enjoying the whole play. It is hard to describe the action, since it was such a mix of music, comedy and drama. But overall, it worked well. The ensemble of ten actors  played many more parts and even moved pianos around. But it was a lovely play.

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