FRINGE REVIEW: Actor ferocious in dark, enjoyable one-woman show Get Around Me

Gillian English is ferociously funny as a one-woman powerhouse bent on taking down the patriarchy in her solo show Get Around Me.

Sadly, her story is not abnormal, but the method of presentation certainly is: the Shakespearean-trained actress has bravely turned her own unfortunate experience of sexual assault into a stage performance.

It’s evident she’s sharing this story for comic, retributive and preventative purposes.

The emotionally and otherwise wearing incident, which was connected to her personal strength-inducing journey into athleticism via Australian Rules Football in her late 20s, has been turned into a battle cry against any injustice done towards her own sex.

Her anger-fuelled confidence and feminist nature is inspiring.

The show takes place in The Living Room on Agricola Street. The small venue, and its given name are apt for the performance: English presents herself simply as herself — a real person who, at that moment, happens to be “acting” on stage — like a standup comedian with a serious statement. Her accompanying personal photographic slideshow completes this picture.

The show, though dark, has an ample helping of this native Nova Scotian’s lightly seasoned casual style humour on the side.

While not a typical play by any means, given its highly personal and purposeful nature, it was informative, uncomfortable and enjoyable all at the same time.

Come hear her story; respect the bold move she’s made by making this show.

As originally published in The Chronicle Herald

FRINGE REVIEW: Yes People, No People makes middle ground enjoyable

Yes People, No People explores the middle ground of decision-making where some of us meander — the safe space between a passive or progressive choice.

This performance, suitably playing in The Waiting Room, is made up of a series of sketches in which Zach Faye and Julia Topple examine the inner and surface selves of their various characters, as well as the workings of society, along with appearance and perspective via a variety of theatrical styles. It’s a constant introspective analysis of our innermost thoughts and outward actions, in relation to some of the silly persistent practices of the present age.

They make a great team — supplying energy, enthusiasm and precision to this partially poetic piece, intermixed with appropriately themed music, metaphors and puns.

Mary Faye Coady, along with director Meghan Hubley, and the cast themselves, seem to have given great care into this collective artistic creation. This dramatic comedy has something to indulge the deep as well as those with a preference for potty humour.

A ranking of the show would reside in the same middle space it considers, because the subject matter and content don’t allow for a strong denouement, but this does not stop the performance from being immensely enjoyable.

It’s able to remind us of simplicity and clarity in this increasingly busy world. If you’re hearing the call of a little contemplation alongside some laughter see this show: Wednesday 10:05 p.m.; Thursday, 8 p.m.; Friday, 8:50 p.m. and Sunday, 5:50 p.m.

As originally published in The Chronicle Herald

FRINGE REVIEW: Music best part of Divine Inspiration

Divine Intervention provides ancient consideration for a way of solving many of the world’s present issues.

The musical opera created by Michael Emenau, Briane Nasimok, Kate Dowling and Mark Shekter is an acoustically interesting and fun view at this year’s fringe, but the story lacked a little in development and character strength.

The piece takes on the divergent perspectives of two of the most opinionated of Greek mythology’s gods: Apollo and Dionysus, in an attempt to use their varying traits to save Earth from the self-destructive hands of humans.

Using a judicial method of bringing forth witnesses and just examples to prove their cases, the two gods duke it out to defend their own way as the best to provide aid: through reasonable and rational consistent work, or irrational and inspired creative solutions. The audience, involved in the production, is to act as the ultimate judge.

Mary Shelly, Beethoven, and Mozart make short appearances, but the real merit of these and other accomplished intellectuals’ inclusion in the work is through Emenau’s beautiful arrangements. The most impressive part of the show is the music. Guitar, cajon, tambourine and piano continue playing throughout the performance, and the wonderful pitches of the cast members’ voices meet this sonic pleasure for these songs.

As originally published in The Chronicle Herald.

Sunya offers dance that haunts

It was a mesmerizing, haunting performance — a mystical Persian mosaic of dance styles, ideas, murals and music.

Sinha Danse and Constantinople of Montreal brought their spectacular show Sunya, courtesy of Live Art Dance, to the stage of the Sir James Dunn Theatre at the Dalhousie Arts Centre in Halifax on Thursday night.

At the beginning of the piece, the setar strings start up, and the musician playing them, Iranian-born Kiya Tabassian, walks on from the left. He is met in the middle of the stage by a dancer, the choreographer of the performance, Indo-Armenian Roger Sinha. The two wear similar expressions of recognition while staring each other down.

They begin to converse cross-culturally, to relate and then collaborate.

Tabassian sings as though asking a question, and Sinha springs into motion. He turns his hips, legs and feet left and then right, gliding smoothly on the stage, a supple bend in his spine. His upper body reveals his own codified responses through intricate positions borrowed from the ancient art of Bharata Natyam, a classical south Indian dance form, and a connection to his background. His legs move in the manner of contemporary dance. His hands express his eastern roots. The setar’s music calls him home.

These are the artistic directors of Sunya. It is their consideration of their own migratory pasts, and their own search for identity among several influencing cultures — from different eastern countries to North America, and particularly Quebec — that have inspired this performance.

Sunya, meaning “zero” and “number” in Sanskrit, provides a great starting point for such contemplation. In the program, they say this choice “refers to this fundamental paradox of being, of language, of movement.”

Though it’s a bit unusual for the topics of globalization, colonization and exile to be addressed during a contemporary dance show, they, along with musicians Patrick Graham on percussion and Pierre-Yves Martel playing the viola de gamba and dancers Thomas Casey, Tanya Crowder, Ghislaine Doté and François Richard, do a tremendous job in doing so.

A long note rises from the viola de gamba while Graham scratches the surface of the drum’s skin, creating an otherworldly sound. Casey drags his body across the stage while shrouded in light, toward the sound’s source, apparently enraptured in curiosity. Two lit beings appear on stage, with the aim of chasing him. Perhaps they represent two identities, harassing him to choose. Tormented, he lies on his back, grabbing forward into the air and turns over himself, again and again, just as we mentally roll through such thoughts when equally perplexed.

The choreography does a great job portraying this journey to self-understanding.

The dancers, wearing tight white tops with armbands and accents of gold, with loose eastern-inspired beige pants, all designed by Denis Lavoie, deliver their performance flawlessly. They communicate clearly, interacting and supporting one another throughout the show. Their movements are measured and precise, yet even when dancing with the full company, individual personalities shine through, thanks to the expressive nature of the Indian-infused style.

The piece includes incredible visual art by Jérôme Delapierre, experimenting with video projectors, mirrors and lighting; he creates a canvas of the stage and its backdrop.

Early on in the piece, Arabic calligraphy covers the floor. As Tabassian begins singing mournfully, the words transition to appear as moving water, acting as a liquid unifier, reintroducing and empowering the dancers back into the performance from a calm and cleansed state.

Wanting for a reconciled world between East and West, the piece’s choreography builds up to become full of productive energy with the aid of eastern rhythms, inspiring the dancers to take this Indian fusion into their footwork. In ending this way, Sinha hopes to instill the idea that traditions can work together positively, instead of creating divides or acting to denounce another culture.

It is a performance as stirring to the mind as the intrinsic sounds of the setar are to the heart.

More than anything, this piece emits pure joy from freedom of expression.

Sunya can be seen Saturday at 8 p.m.

As originally published in The Chronicle Herald. 

DANCE REVIEW: Poulin-Denis delivers bold, engaging show

Jacques Poulin-Denis delivered a humorous, dark, and playfully pathetic piece Thursday night at the Sir James Dunn Theatre as part of Live Art Dance’s fall season.

Overall, it was a powerful, enrapturing performance, which was emotionally bold and physically demanding.

Cible de Dieu, or Target of God, introduces a character whose view of life is marred by an inability and obsessive compulsion to find an unattainable absolute purpose.

An anti-hero, this character uses the series of solos in the 50-minute, modern dance and theatre production as a means to an overt confession.

It’s a personal piece but a human story: trying to find a path, making a plan, finding balance. Attempting. Failing. Faking it through performance until you make or break it. Exploring the ability to live life without being hurt each time there is a bump — to learn to adapt when profound changes debilitate.

Though the subject matter could have induced a bout of depression, the interdisciplinary piece was invigorating and extraordinary because of a variety of surprises, including stupendous talent on the part of the soloist.

It is rare to see someone with a prosthetic leg dance professionally on stage. But it is also unusual to see anyone perform with this amount and diversity of talent. Though Poulin-Denis’s character may be searching to find balance in this piece, Poulin-Denis, the choreographer, director, composer, performer and founder of interdisciplinary arts company, Grand Poney, definitely has done so in his own life.

According to the program, his company has the concept of developing a “hybridized and idea-based writing style that reinvents itself indefinitely, while questioning its relationship to others and attempting to bridge the obvious and the imaginary,” and is self-professedly in pursuit of “delusions of grandeur,” with projects containing a “measure of unfeasibility.”

And so it is easy to see how he’s utilized this process in relation to the composition of this work in particular.

Poulin-Denis dances with fluidity throughout the piece. But it is his strength and not his grace which is highlighted here. He is constantly in character, meaning ill-composed in this case, but he has great control over all movement, which is what allows him to act offset in a convincing manner.

Aside from his artistry as a dancer, it was Poulin-Denis’s abilities as an actor and storyteller that resonated with the audience in a set that was minimalist: a chair and umbrella were used as props and a pair of pants and olive tank top served as a costume.

Even if the performance did detail many losses, he certainly won over those seeing the show.

Originally published in The Chronicle Herald.

Atlantic Fringe Festival: Loki’s Big Dream serves up important life lessons

Dartmouth native Jim Dalling lends children life lessons about love with his play Loki’s Big Dream.

Part of this year’s Fringe Festival, it’s the story of a city boy being influenced by time spent in the country with his grandfather throughout his childhood.

It’s the perfect performance for combined child engagement and adult consideration. Festival veteran Dalling gives an energetic, interactive performance. He not only had the audience participate but the inquisitive kids present asking important questions about life.

SEE ALSO: More fringe festival reviews

Playing the role of narrator, the character Loki, and the boy’s grandfather, Dalling passes between these beings with an element of entertaining bizarreness – a quirk that works in this kids’ show.

He also uses the show to make clear what matters in the long run: to think with your head and lead your life with your heart – balancing both to have a good start.

Consideration of dreams also occurs – those we contemplate while conscious, as well as the ones slipping into our sleep state, waiting for us to interpret them when we wake.

The story keeps kids learning and playing with the aid of puppetry, masks and clowning around.

If you’d like an easy introduction to loss for your young ones and still want the process to be considered fun you might think of taking them to see this show.

It can still be seen at the Museum of Natural History on:

Wed. Sept. 3 – 8:10 p.m.

Thurs. Sept. 4 – 7:30 p.m.

Fri. Sept. 5 – 7:30 p.m.

Sat. Sept. 6 – 2:35 p.m.

Sun. Sept. 7 – 4:05 p.m.

Atlantic Fringe Festival: Portrait of small-town life misses mark

Fault Lines examines how family and friends cope when death unexpectedly knocks on the door. Sometimes, emotional fault lines, finger-pointing and feelings of blame surface when something so tragic occurs.

This touching story dealing with the trials that surface after losing a loved one, written and directed by Andrea Dymond, runs at the Bus Stop Theatre.

While this drama’s subject matter is deep and somewhat dark, the performance, through no fault in particular, does not come across as powerful.

The trio of women, Jessica Barry as Raven, Rena May Kossatz as Glenda and Paige Smith as Anna, acting out this small-town story, set in Truro between the ’50s and ’90s, were convincing in their roles, but the characters themselves had too many personal issues. This hampered the audience’s ability to love them.

As a result of this and the emotional monologues, delivered simultaneously by two actors at the same-metred pace, the death — which should have been the crux of the story — does not cut deeply.

Instead, this show is an intense inspection of each characters’ individual life.

The show runs at the Bus Stop on Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

 As published Sept. 2, 2014 in The Chronicle Herald.


Atlantic Fringe Festival: Waiting for Batteries will give you a charge

Come recharge your batteries by seeing this show.

It will be good for your soul, and the creators of Slippery People Theatre’s Waiting for Batteries and those who act in it deserve a full audience.

It simply must be seen this year’s Atlantic Fringe Festival.

The writing by Michael Burgos, who also plays the role of Eduardo, an eccentric and idealistic caregiver, is brilliant. All of the acting — which also includes Steve Day playing the role of Silvio Plachowski, a shortwave radio enthusiast, alongside Eduardo Dimartino as Larry, and Ken Hall as Therapeutic Rick — is beautifully done.

The story, the idea for which came from Day, is moving and makes you consider the different aspects of crazy we all possess in our own private spheres of life.

Is there really that big of a difference between the search for a beloved item which has been misplaced, leaving you to tear apart your home in search of it — investing emotion and even dictating your mood for the day — and an intrinsic obsession with a particular object by someone who may be deemed mentally ill?

Is there a large difference between an irrational phobia and an irrational fixation? Or does it just come down to duration.

Waiting for Batteries is an exploration of our everyday idiosyncrasies and how they are amplified when mental illness or even the mere ups and downs of daily life enter the mix.

It explores character boundaries and communication between people of different cultures and backgrounds.

It makes obvious the unique abilities we are born with as individuals and the potential we all hold.

Your shoulders may shake and ribs ache from laughter.

It can still be viewed at DANSPACE on Grafton Street today at 8:30 p.m., Tuesday – 9:30 p.m., Wednesday – 8 p.m., Thursday – 6 p.m., and Saturday – 9:15 p.m.


Atlantic Fringe Festival: Inner city tales make The Adversary poignant, visceral

Often in life, our worst enemy may be ourselves. It’s a fact Andrew Bailey makes prominent in his play The Adversary, which is playing at the Bus Stop Theatre as part of this year’s Atlantic Fringe Festival.

His one-man show is a monologue with characters from his time as an inner city church caretaker. Aside from jobs like trimming hedges and mowing the lawn, he was tasked with keeping the rule of law and had to deal with drug addicts overstaying their welcome.

It’s a visceral human story of the inner moral struggles he faced when deciding how to deal with the underside of society — trying to find rational solutions to irrational situations.

He considers the marginalization of the poor, along with those who’ve faced life on the streets due to some substance.

He is versatile and precise in his storytelling ability and still his comedian side smiles from the dark shadows of the topics he discusses:

 Whether rules or higher laws hold more regard.

 Whether justice always holds such ambiguity and subjectiveness.

This play is poignant and purposeful. It makes you think about whom and what we try so hard to sweep aside and hide.

Come see this very sincere and enlightening performance from the passionate Bailey. It’s still playing at The Bus Stop Theatre, today at 9:30 p.m., Monday – 2:30 p.m., Wednesday – 7:30 p.m., Thursday – 7:30 p.m., Friday – 10:30 p.m., and Saturday, 3 p.m.


Atlantic Fringe Festival: Lovely detail in Subica’s solo Choca (Cry Baby)

Kayla Subica’s premiere of her show Choca (Cry Baby) had a strong start Friday night, and although a sentimental piece, nobody left the dramatic comedy in tears.

Presented as part of the 24th Atlantic Fringe Festival, Subica acted out the story of a young girl yearning to reunite with her estranged Portuguese grandmother, solo. Although she wrote the piece, she owns it in another way, as the story is her own.

The talented actress held nothing back as she tumbled through this tale of their drawn out reunion. She took on the characters portrayed in her play with ease — lending them uniquely memorable voices and physical attributes throughout the show. As most of these characters were her actual relatives, this aspect was impressive but not outlandishly so as their personalities would have taken less time to craft.

It’s a sweet show that’s funny in the same way life is — sometimes things turn out, but sometimes they don’t; sometimes you think you want a particular thing, but you didn’t really know what you wanted well enough in the first place.

The piece was obviously intimate. It seemed much rehearsed by Subica the actress and was doused in wonderful detail by Subica the author.

For a reflective, relatable and entertaining experience this Fringe, see her show. It’s playing at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, which can be entered from the Bedford Row entrance, today at 8:15 p.m., Sunday – 8:20 p.m., Monday – 6:15 p.m., Tuesday – 9:45 p.m., Wednesday – 8:30 p.m., Thursday – 6 p.m., Friday – 5:30 p.m., Sept. 6 – 8:15 p.m., and Sept. 7 – 2 p.m.