Thursday, January 6, 2011

"A Christmas Carol" by The Soulpepper Theatre Company

Written by Charles Dickens. Adapted by Michael Shamata.

Last Monday, I had the opportunity to visit the lovely Distillery District to enjoy a little festive theatre production.
Soulpepper is one of Toronto's most critically acclaimed theatre companies, but more interestingly, one of their more experimental performance art collectives.
The good folks at Soupepper had prepared a stunning stage adaption of Charles Dickens' quaint Victorian ghost tale, "A Christmas Carol".
I went down with my family to the lovely Young Center for The Performing Arts early in the evening.
The reception foyer filled up rather quickly.
My parents had some warm beverages before the show, and the caffeine evidently made them even more excited than I already was at the moment.
An announcement was made five minutes prior to the show to usher the eager audience into the theatre.
As I mentioned earlier, Soulpepper has been known to take a fascinatingly experimental approach to contemporary theatre classics. This would immediately become evident as soon as one entered the strange rectangle stage, set right in the center of all the auditorium seats. They made a magnificent use of their stage technology and unique stage setting to put forth an intriguingly engaging show brimming with adaptative ingenuity.
stage copy
I don't want to ruin any of the magic in case any of you readers decide to attend their production next year, but the stage introduction was absolutely brilliant. The narrator took the stage in a charmingly mild manner, making casual reference to the "ghost light" quietly standing by itself in the center of the stage. Conversationally, he slowly made his way to an explanation of the ghost light's significance in the history of theatre. Before you knew it, all in one seamless motion, the ghost light dramatically vanished, the props made their way to the stage in one enormously dream-sequenced swirl, and the enthralling ghost tale of "A Christmas Carol" filled the room.
Everything about this show was so irresistibly enjoyable, from the gorgeous performing art center that hosts Soulpepper's productions, to Michael Shamata's ingenious adaptation for the stage, to the Distillery District itself, glimmering in all its Yuletide glory.
This is a truly unique Toronto experience no performance art-enthusiast should have to miss during Christmas.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"The Old Man and the Sea" by Ernest Hemingway

"No good book has ever been written that has in it symbols arrived at beforehand and stuck in. ... I tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks. But if I made them good and true enough they would mean many things".
- Ernest Hemingway -

Then he added, "Blessed Virgin, pray for the death of this fish. Wonderful though he is."
Abstractionism is a powerful thing. I once remember, as a child, visiting an art gallery for a school field trip. The tour guide was a rather tedious middle-aged lady, and I eventually found myself fooling around with some friends instead of paying her any attention. Taking a moment from her less than engaging droning, she called me out in frustration. She said, hey you! what does the red represent in this painting. I responded with something to the effect of "danger?" In a terse and condescending fashion, she immediately shot down my proposition and scolded me for not paying attention. I can safely blame her, and many others like her, for ruining my interest in art early on in my life.
Why an artist would ever want to limit the meaning of their art is beyond me. Some of the greatest artists that have graced the earth have been staunch believers in abstractionism, as am I. They provide their audience the freedom to interpret their work in their own personal way. From Luis Bunuel to Kanye West, they place no definite meanings to their work. Their work may mean one thing to them, but I am beyond grateful that they understand their work can mean a myriad of things to others.
This is the way I approached The Old Man and the Sea. Looking into the mind of this old Cuban fisherman, Santiago, was a fascinating experience. I can only be thankful to Hemingway for making the statement above and not choosing to limit the scope of what his contemporary novella symbolized. It makes art a lot more accessible, and thankfully a lot more relatable.