The beautiful simplicity of the storyline provokes reflection on the nature of our everyday interactions, the way we communicate and how isolating our world can be, despite the near-constant buzz of noises that surrounds us. The occasions when the sounds of various electronic devices and human voices built up to a nonsensical cacophony brought us right into Vernus’ world, and allowed us to understand that what should be simple has been complicated by what we think of as technology and innovation. The result is that we rejoice at the end when he finds an ingenious way around the obstacles on his path.
It’s a daunting task to tell such a familiar, tragic, story, especially when much of the audience in Ottawa is likely to know it well (it’s worth mentioning that you need not know any of the background to fully understand the show). White Noise manages to do it in an interesting, respectful manner. Please don’t let the subject matter keep you away. It’s a great show, perfect for rounding out your Fringe calendar.
One of the most surprising elements of It Is What It Is was the ability of the actors to project an understanding of the depth and complexity of their subject matter, which was occasionally quite dark. I found some of the monologues to be impressive in their frankness and insight compared to those I’ve seen by elder, (presumably) more experienced performers. Some of the later drama was a little heavy-handed and cheesy, but not overwhelmingly so. As well, there were at least a few good one-liners.
The plot is complex, and although it is a tragedy (with a Hamlet-esque body count) that gets more and more grim with each passing scene, the dialogue, performances, and pacing make it hilarious. There is also the cognitive dissonance: normally we want two young lovers to be united against whatever odds they face; here we are reminded they are brother and sister, and it’s either immoral, unnatural, or just plain icky. One way or another, it’s compelling. Everyone turns in a great performance.
I imagine that with some workshopping this script could be very good. In fact, despite the rough start, the middle of the play did grab my attention. As the siblings reveal their sordid past and the things they lived through, I found myself wanting to find out more. I became much more invested in the back stories of the characters. The premise was almost enough for me to ignore the other flaws in the production. Sadly, this investment is lost in the final moments where the script just goes a little too crazy and has a fairly implausible ending.
So, if you go into this show expecting a theatre performance, you may end up kind of disappointed. As a storyteller, though, Murphy is excellent. And when Kuwaiti Moonshine is viewed as a told story, it is moving, inspiring, and often brilliant. This show is essentially a short story, told and acted by one individual, writer Tim C. Murphy. It contains elements taken from theatre, standup comedy, and (oddly- enough) self-help books, but it is, at its core, a literary/spoken word experience. Which is excellent, really, because the writing is fantastic.
It’s the images that haunt me now. They sear. They burn. In stark colours: blood red, Fascist black, lab coat white, fur brown. They invade my dreams. Opening tableau: a man tied to a chair, his back to us, dried streaks of blood on his shirt sleeves.
When the mannequins come on stage, I feel the stage at last come alive. The pas de deux of the mannequins is romantic and sweet. Two dancers, Austin Fagan and Joanie Audet, enliven mannequins of opposite gender, animating their gestures with Ronnie Burkett grace. Dating. Popcorn at the movies. Cocktails at the bar. Return to apartment, together. It still brings a smile to my face. Olivia Citter’s pas de quatre with the three men of the company touched my heart with its beauty and passion. I don’t know how it advances the plot… and I don’t care. I close my eyes and I still savour it.
In Waves is rhythmic, with Allingham’s storytelling (and often his body) rising and falling like the very sea it is set upon. Set to a soft, haunting soundtrack by Lewis Caunter, evocative of Siren mythology, Allingham proves he can engage the audience with his voice, eye contact, and movement. A simple backdrop makes for dramatic light-and-shadow play. Though the backdrop gradually fell apart throughout the duration of the play, it seems fitting, considering the turbulent, emotional dive of the protagonist.