To be considered original and have one’s own “brand,” writers—and most assuredly critics—strive to find their own voice, get comfortable with it, then discover it anew (or frequently “a-modified”) with every sentence.
For first-rate composers, it is necessary to find one’s own language: with centuries of solutions to that challenge readily available on digital devices everywhere, it is possible to know the intimate details of far more forms and styles than those legions of past masters who toiled with just pen and paper, needing a live performance to hone their own skills and expand their knowledge of “competitors.”
What fun it is, then, to hear/see a play with a singular, made-up vocabulary fusing both voice and language into one marvellous whole.
Throwing in a voracious, green monster is just the icing on this fanciful cake!
That said, it’s the execution of David Craig’s and Robert Morgan’s script that is the strongest element in this touring production.
Director Pablo Felices-Luna has knocked one out of the forest with his superb sense of pacing and wonderfully imaginative staging that builds on the strengths of the stellar cast and crew.
Karyn McCallum’s set and costume designs are the epitome of form-meets-function with dollops of whimsy thrown into the mix. From the opening magical ladybug to the verdant creature’s bug eyes, ravenous red tongue and hat-spewing belch, seeing is believing. Nigel Scott’s lighting talents are also much in evidence: imagine grasping a covey of stars from the Milky Way then tossing them onto the tent’s soot-black ceiling!
Rick Sacks has cobbled together an inventive soundscape whose mallet-rich interventions produce the required creepy, crawly, er, scaley effect which surrounds “Danger Here” (the dreamy “overture” also works beautifully).
Once again stage manager Meghan Speakman proved to be the master of the console as nary a cue was missed.
There’s a fair bit of puppetry required to keep the illusions perking along and delighting the crowd with the tree’s roving branches, flirtatious “fleurs” and a fun-loving bird sporting many-hued feathers! Jacqueline Costa—invisible to the crowd—was more than up to the challenge.
The two brothers, Dib (Daniel Pagett) and Dob (Joshua Stodart) are a fascinating combination of famous male duos from Of Mice and Men, Laurel and Hardy, The Odd Couple and—almost from the get-go due to Dob’s hat—Waiting for Godot.
The second-to-last time I saw Samuel Beckett’s masterpiece was in Korea. With no surtitles and spoken entirely in Korean, I was happily astonished as to how that production was more enjoyable than those heard in English! At this performance, there was an eerie sense of déjà vu as the actors, speaking in too-long-from-home-brotherese, sent my memory flying back to Seoul (cross-reference below).
The many physical laughs were a constant pleasure to teachers and students alike. Stodart has a winning pratfall and sense of large that ought to light up stages and audiences for decades. Pagett explodes in exasperation with consummate skill and is a most convincing straight man (Hardy) to his partner’s (Laurel) zany antics.
Yet in the Q&A that followed, there was a decided lack of insight or “aha!” from the assembly when the question was posed: “How did the brothers show that they love each other?”
Alas, it seemed the hilarity (perhaps theatre’s longest on-stage—if blanket-blocked—pee—shaming nearby Niagara Falls) trumped the playwrights’ message, most likely because the nuances of their invented language failed to communicate with their targets. JWR