Sunday, 25 January 2015

Who's a Coward?

Darlings, it is the end of January, and therefore time to celebrate a playwright! Royal MTC's Master Playwright Festival honours British playwright Noël Coward this year, which means we're in for some fun. Contrary to many of the previous playwrights, Coward's work is characteristically comedic -- he writes silly people existing in a frivolous time, focusing primarily on the English upper classes in the earlier parts of the 20th century. Gin, champagne, music, parties, fabulous clothes -- what could be better! Yet it is all under-pinned with a sense that there are more serious matters hiding beneath the decadence. Less hearty than American contemporary F. Scott Fitzgerald's scathing account, Coward's characters inhabit a world of fun and games, where the seriousness of their predicament and the impact of their choices is left for another day's discussion.

As usual, several local companies are stepping up with productions: Royal MTC present Private Lives, directed by Krista Jackson who has become a staple in the MTC Master Playwright camp for the past few years. Echo Theatre go site-specific, with Coward's ghost-addled Blithe Spirit presented at Ralph Connor House, which is bound to be a fantastic time. There are also some indie shows, including Noël Collaborates, a new work based on Coward's correspondence with long-time friend Esme Wynn, and book-ending the first play either wrote called Ida Collaborates.

My own contribution to the festival is of a slightly different tone. For me, Coward is about marvellous parties and adventure, so my creative partner and I have put together a one-night event called Tonight At Eight, which is essentially a Coward party you can come and enjoy, rather than watch from the opposite side of the proscenium! There are adventures to be had, all in good fun. Our show is at the RAW gallery on McDermot, February 7 only.

For more info on Tonight At Eight, visit our Facebook Event.

And check out the festival's website for a complete listing.

Monday, 12 January 2015


I have been horribly delinquent recently in my personal mantra to write about everything I see. I don't really have an explanation for it, to be honest. I am seeing work. I don't hate what I'm seeing. But I also have not been particularly taken by it. It all feels frustratingly SAFE, which for me, is the death of true creativity. Granted, I get that not all audiences are willing to watch Lars Eidinger roll around in wet mud and spew Goethe translated Shakespeare at them. I totally get that. But at the same time, I think we sometimes sell our audiences short in our expectations of what will sell, which then perpetuates their own feeling of safety in their choice. It is a huge self-perpetuating problem. 

Obviously, I'm one person, and one with limited time. And who maybe sometimes likes to get paid, which I recognize means might mean some accommodations. But that said, I also sometimes want to say "screw it" and just make all the work I want to make, as self indulgent as that may be, and if we have an audience of 10 people, so be it. 

I am generally against resolutions, but I'm going to state one now: I resolve to see the work that might be challenging. It is far too easy in our busy schedules to not make it, but tired or not, busy or not, I'm going to make it. 

ATTEND theatre. And I'm going to get re-motivated to write about it. 

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Dali Up Close, Masterworks of the Beaverbook Gallery, & Sobey Prize Finalists @ WAG

I had a lovely afternoon at the WAG this week, upon my daughter's prompting that she wanted to see the Dali exhibition. She first discovered her love of both Surrealism and Pop Art during our many forays into the Tate Modern (I will admit, for a 10 year old she has reasonably refined taste in modern art). The Dali "up close" exhibition is coupled with two others -- Masterworks of The Beaverbrook Gallery, and the finalists for the Sobey Prize.

Entering the gallery, we first experience the Masterworks, which range in taste and vintage, however focused heavily on English painters (making sense, given their collector). That said, there were a few notable pieces for my taste, including a stunning Turner, and some Matisse sketches which I very much enjoyed. Walking through the gallery with a 10 year old girl, we made it a point to find the paintings by women - unfortunately only 4 in the full collection (including a stunning Emily Carr). While we are unable to turn back and change the facts of art history, much like those of literary history, we can promote in our youth an awareness of the conditions for making art, and for women in these historical periods.

Given the focus among the Masterworks in earlier periods of the 20th century (and before), the unashamed colour in Dali's work stood out starkly. Dali's work was, unsurprisingly, stunning. The richness of of colour coupled with the provocative themes was fantastic, as expected. Perhaps unexpectedly, however, was the pure gleeful joy of the Moustache series of photographs, which (hopefully) reminded us not only that serious art need not be so serious, but that even artists grappling with monstrous questions of physics and faith can be silly, and oh so human.

The final featured rooms were the Sobey Art Prize finalists. I was most struck by the pieces by Nadia Myre - the sewn canvases, showing both words and physical manifestations of decay were really beautiful and haunting. Similarly, the text-centred work of Neil Farber and Michael Dumontier was thought provoking.

On a related note, I must say that I'm really enjoying the arrangement in the permanent collection, which recently has begun to situate some of the oldest and newest pieces in the collection beside one another - what is striking is the parallels in shape and colour this brings out. Definitely worth having a look at!