“Next Stage Festival”; a Toronto winter treat! Reply

Review by Michael PiscitellireviewerMichael P2
As O.A.R.  practices with the Hamilton & Toronto Fringes, we present slightly abbreviated (but not thumbnail) critiques sequentially and within a single heading. The following is Michael’s take on four of the offerings presently being staged at the three venues that make up the Factory Theatre and runs until January 17th.

An Urban Myth of Epic Proportions
Dance shows cam be another world unto themselves. I’ve really only ever seen ballet pieces, or modern dances where the audience was silent the entire show save for the end when they would applaud for the performers.

NOT a shot of Lizzie Borden, but a character from Agamemnon

NOT a shot of Lizzie Borden, but a character from Agamemnon

Urban Myth is nothing like that. Wild cheering, cameras flashing, an emcee actively getting jeered and cheered by friends in the audience; it’s incredible getting a taste of the other, much more informal, half of the dance scene. A show entirely dedicated to waacking, tutting, house, krumping and all things urban dance related, you get to see the incredible, highly precise and all around fun of the urban dance world.
A collaborative effort between several of Canada’s top urban choreographers and top talented dancers, I can’t say enough good things about this show.  It was wild. It was energetic. It was something I don’t normally get to see simply because it’s not a world I know. If you’re interested in seeing a people move in ways that are fluid but at the same time mechanical and all around controlled in ways you’ve never seen before, then you should try and get your ticket from the Next Stage ticket tent by Factory Theatre as soon as you can.


A family that kills together…
Modern adaptations of ancient Greek tragedies are tricky business. Have too much of the original text and people won’t be able to relate. Have too much colloquialisms and the original message of the play could be lost. Agamemnon adapted by Nicolas Billon does not hit that mark. It had good potential to be relatable in our current times, but unfortunately, it speaks of war as if it were something that everyone wants, and how the killing of others is justifiable simply because they’re not as well off or have “primative” (sic) customs to us. That’s just the tip of the written iceberg.
The direction and acting of the piece was as good as it could have been with what they had to work with. Director Sarah Kitz had actors on stilts to symbolize those who were dead and used projections for added other worldly effect (albeit very little use I might add). Parts of the show stood out to me as interesting bits of symbolism, like the walls having small parts torn off to reveal fleshy, bloody guts behind them, (which they could have gone much farther with for a more pronounced impact) and Elektra being in front of the TV playing a war video game for the entire play.
Like always, I will say to get the full effect of a show you need to see it for yourself. I am but one opinion in a sea of many. That being said, don’t go expecting a be-all-end-all show.


 Three Men in a Boat…
3 men, a dog and way more luggage than a boat should have should actually be the title. This year’s Next Stage Festival has been incredibly fun all around, and Three Men in a Boat is no exception to that. A show on the misadventures of 3 men and their dog that go off on a jaunt down the Thames for 2 weeks, you’ll be chuckling in your seat and humming along to the wonderful 3 part harmonies that are sung by the men and they merrily go on their way down the river. Through the use of clever lighting, a wicker stool, chair and stuffed Scottish terrier, the actors create the world of the places they explore along the river and more often than naught, they seem to get themselves in over their heads.  Anyone who has gone on a bad camping trip will be able to relate to the humor of not being able to pitch your tent, or not leaving until a day later, or not even waking up until 4 hours past your alarm the day of your trip. A wonderful piece of pure fun for all ages, be sure to get your tickets ASAP. You won’t want to miss out on this if you can help it.


 Wild, Wild Bloody West
If bad mouthed cowboys, a crooked sheriff and a barmaid that can kick your butt from here to Kansas are your kind of scene, then I would suggest leaving the kids at home.  Blood Wild is a rip-snortin’ good time. The story about 2 train robbers the day after a heist is littered with slang from the old west and idioms galore. Take note there are many gunshots in this performance, but they make all the difference with this all together fun and entertaining piece. That being said, if you’re looking for substance, or a message, or some sort of revelation to life, you’re looking in the wrong place. Pure entertainment value, but not much else.
If you’re interested in seeing this and a multitude of great shows going on at the Factory Theatre, go online now and get your tickets to the Next Stage Festival. You won’t be sorry, and you’ll definitely get all the bang for your buck.


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