Kiviuq Returns – an Inuit Epic

Tarragon presented this “creative-collection performance based on the legends of the Inuit hero Kiviuq as remembered and shared by Inuit elders” . The Qaggiq Collective created and performed the play in Inuktitut.

There were a few Inuktitut speakers in the audience, noticeable because they got the jokes sooner than the rest of us. We were only able to watch the physical side and hear the words without understanding any of them, although I think everyone left knowing the meaning of Pinga! I am not going to tell you. See it for yourself!

I left the theatre trying to figure out what I had seen and where to file it in my mind. The closest comparisons I could come up with was watching a performance of the Takigi Noh in Osaka. It was interesting and even beautiful, but definitely foreign to us. Other  comparisons that came to mind were to Greek comedies or to Medieval Passion Plays. A modern audience can watch them, enjoy them and still feel distanced from the people who wrote them. If they were performed in the original language, with no sur-title or translation, the effect would be similar to watching Kiviuq in Inukititut.

I am happy to have seen this, but now would like to see some theatre created by the Qaggiq Collective that reflects the life and concerns of the Inuit today. With sur-titles, please.

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The Play That Goes Wrong

Fortunately, we got cheap tickets and had nothing better to do that afternoon. Don’t bother.

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The 2017 production of Tartuffe was remounted by Canadian Stage, with thanks going to Stratford, Crow’s Theatre and Groundlings Theatre. It was just as funny this time, with most of the original outstanding cast on stage. There were a couple of changes, most notably Akosua Amo-Adem who stepped into the role of Dorine, replacing the hilarious Anusree Roy. Fortunately, she was just as good and definitely a talent to watch.

The one set of changes that were notable were in the script. In the second act, a set of very funny lines were added or refocused to remind us all of the strange leader to the south. Let’s make France great again! Bigly! Phrases we are all so familiar with now, that Trump had not even used when the 2017 script was put together. It was funny, but I also found it uncomfortable. It felt like making fun of a disabled person, except this time he is the President of the US.

But go see it. The translation is wonderful and the cast and staging are terrific. Even if you saw it at Stratford, it is worth going again.

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Looking back at 2018

I thought it would be easy to list the favourites of 2018. Many plays came to mind immediately – Coriolanus, Paradise Lost and The Rocky Horror Show at Stratford. Henry V and The Baroness and the Pig at Shaw.  Seana McKenna as Lear. The New Canadian Curling Club at Blyth. Come From Away. Fun Home.

But then I had a look back at the year and there were so many more. We saw about 47 plays last year, not counting the ones I saw at the Winnipeg Fringe, where I saw a terrific Hamlet.

At Crow’s Theatre, Jerusalem and What A Young Wife Ought to Know were outstanding. And who could forget The Wolves?

At Soulpepper, I fell in love again with Damien Johnson in The Royale.

At Factory there were terrific productions of Prairie Nurse and The Monument and Bang Bang.

To add an international touch, we loved Vagina Monologues in Belfast.

Let’s hope that 2019 is as good.

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The Message

Marshall McLuhan was a big name in my early years. Everyone read, or claimed to have read his work, but not everyone claimed to understand it. This play is set at the end of his life and work, when he is struggling with a stroke that has robbed him of speech – a terrible fate for a man of words. Fortunately, there are many flashbacks that allowed R H Thomson to speak. His groans and mumbles were effective, but painful to listen to for any length of time. He is a very impressive actor.

The rest of the cast were also excellent. It was like watching a who’s who of southern Ontario theatre, with Peter Hutt playing three roles (Feigen, Klein and student), and Patrick McManus (Gossage, Dr Hildebrand, Associate 2 and Father Frank), Sarah Orenstein (Corinne and Cunningham) and  Courtney Ch’ng Lancaster (Mary, Margaret, Marilyn, Associate 1) all demonstrating their talents in multiple roles. Lancaster is not known to us as an actor, but we were impressed by her directing talents in The Wolves earlier this fall.

We happened to be sitting with a group of senior University of Toronto administrators, so the shots taken at the University were especially amusing. The play overall was disappointing though,  largely because it seemed to lack a point. Why should we care? Why should we even be interested in this minor slice of life?

The really intrresting question, not addressed in the play, was what would McLuhan have thought about today’s digital age? Television is dead, but the internet and the screens we carry with us take his ideas far beyond anything he had imaginde.


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The playwright, Norman Yeung, is not a name we are familiar with, but is one we will be watching for. Nor did we recognize any of the actors, all of whom were young and very talented. Unfortinately, we did not get a program the night we attended and now cannot find the cast list.

But the play was fascinating, rather like watching a train wreck. The professor decides to allow unmoderated use of a chat room for the course, trusting that the students will restrict themselves to respectful discussion about the films and film theory. It all goes wrong. The big question is who learned the most? And what did they learn? The digital world permits many things, but not all of it is beneficial.

Yeung is definitely a playwright to watch for.

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The Royale

i wanted to see this play because I am a big fan of Dion Johnstone. I was less enthused about seeing a play about boxing! But I am so glad we managed to catch it at the last matinee. It was fantastic!

The staging was brilliant, with lots of fights and never a blow struck. But you felt like you were watching a real match.

The cast was excellent. Dion Johnstone is heavier and much more muscular than in the past, but still a fabulous actor. I can add his performance as Jay to my other favourites of his, Aaron the Moor and Othello.

Diego Matamoros was wonderful to watch as Max, the promoter. He mixed enthusiasm and realism perfectly. The other two male actors, Christef Desir as Fish, and Alexander Thomas as Wynton, were unknown to me, but worth watching for again. Sabryn Rock was also great as Nina.

The big question is a surprise, but shouldn’t be! Who are you responsible to and for?Can you or should you think only of yourself? Is giving in to a threat a sign of good sense or cowardice?

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