Toronto Fringe: Hell hath no fury like these two women in Rarely Pure Theatre’s Valkyrie

valkyrie_.web_-250x250Rarely Pure Theatre has a reputation for producing dark, edgy and thought-provoking pieces – and its Toronto Fringe production of Thomas McKechnie’s Valkyrie, directed by Bruce Gooch, is no exception.

BFF gal pals Bradley (Monique Renaud) and Erin (Katie Ribout) have transformed themselves into knife-wielding, gun-toting, Krav Maga-practising avengers, Valkyries on the hunt to exact furious vengeance on faithless men who cheat on their wives. But their latest target (Spencer Robson) is markedly different from the others.

As the Valkyries, Renaud and Ribout are fierce and fearless, merciless in their violent pursuit of retribution. Renaud’s Bradley is like a pacing tigress waiting for the cage to be opened so she can gladly tear out the throat of her prey. Ribout’s Erin is the brains – the alpha, it turns out – of the operation, measured and calculating, and keeping her friend on a leash until it’s go time. Robson is devilishly charming, vulgar and dangerously seductive as their intended victim, whose presence has an unexpected effect.

In the face of such extreme violence – done in the name of justice, but really about personal empowerment – Valkyrie leaves questions:
Are the Valkyries in this play avenging angels or crazed pseudo-vigil antes?
Why does Erin agree to continue their project when it’s clear that Bradley could so easily lose her shit?
Does the punishment fit the crime?

Valkyrie is an intensely dark, raw and disturbing look at how far people will go to regain power and control over their lives.

Valkyrie continues at the Tarragon Extra Space until July 13 – check here for exact dates/times. I highly recommend purchasing your tix in advance, as last night’s show was jam-packed.

 

Ribald, rustic taste of the wrath of love in Rarely Pure Theatre’s As You Like It

From the lobby of Storefront Theatre, you can hear the haunting, lyrical and hypnotic sounds of layered FX guitar music. Inside the theatre space, the minimalist set is woodsy, sparse, cold. Branches hang from the ceiling and short sticks of trees sprout from the floor, cradled in snow drifts at the base. Tree stumps, hay bales and driftwood add to the rustic atmosphere. This is the world of Rarely Pure Theatre’s production of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, directed by Rosanna Saracino.

The extremely talented and raucous young cast digs into this charming, but chilly, pastoral comedy with gusto – the passion, love and hate have equal bite in this tale of betrayal, loss, love and redemption. Stand-outs include Christina Bryson as Rosalind (also assistant producer), who gives a lovely turn as the young woman who must disguise herself as a boy even as she grapples with the conflicting emotions of mourning for a father banished and revelling in the pangs of new love. Katie Ribout’s Cecilia is adorably sweet and loyal as Rosalind’s cousin/BFF, herself struggling with harsh circumstance of a father who’s usurped her uncle and subsequently banished Rosalind, forcing her to choose her friend over her father. Spenser Robson (also Co-Artistic Director and Producer) does a nice job of balancing Orlando’s passion and strength of conviction over his own family situation and his tongue-tied, lovelorn response to Rosalind. Benjamin Blais is roaring good fun as the bawdy, wise Fool Touchstone, and Michael Hogan is deliciously maudlin and philosophical as the anomie-filled, aimless courtier Jacques.

This is love, hard and chilly, but also tender and hot – much like Ganymed’s portrayal of Rosalind. All in all, a ribald and rustic taste of the wrath of love.

Take a look at the As You Like It trailer, featuring Christina Bryson, Katie Ribout and Ben Blais.

As You Like It continues its run at Storefront Theatre until January 26.

A moving, lyrical & thoughtful remembrance – Until Our Paths Cross Again

The intimate performance space at Dancemakers has a shiny black stage floor – like glass, like dark water. Up centre is a large boulder, to its right an olive tree and down left is a medium-sized boulder, the blue glass stones at its base telling us that there is water there. This is the setting for Rarely Pure Theatre’s production Until Our Paths Cross Again – written, directed and produced by first-time playwright and company A.D. Monique Renaud, with the assistance of some University of Windsor Acting Program pals and some Ryerson Theatre School tech program students.

Rapid gunfire sounds out as the house lights go down and we see a soldier (Stephanie Carpanini) crawling for her life on her belly. She stops moving, hit. Injured and exhausted, she passes out. She is a Canadian soldier, alone and lost somewhere in Kandahar, separated from her men during the battle. A girl (Katie Ribout) climbs the olive tree, admiring the view and picking olives. She is alone too, separated from her family. When the soldier comes to and discovers the girl, she is wary – afraid even as the girl offers first aid and water. The girl is wary and afraid too. Eventually, they are able to communicate – and it turns out the girl speaks English – and each gradually gains the other’s trust.

The script makes use of a bible story (Noah’s ark and the olive branch), Shakespeare (a playful snippet of Romeo and Juliet, with the tree serving as the balcony) and Greek mythology (a couple is rewarded for helping a god with their wish to always be together by transforming into trees). And the letter the soldier writes to her husband, with the girl suggesting the romantic opening “my love,” reminded me of a letter my grandfather wrote to my grandmother while he was stationed in the UK/Europe during WWII. He was a Captain too. The olive branch is a particularly arresting image. Initially used by the soldier as a symbol of peace, it is later employed by the girl as a make-shift play gun. She wants to be a soldier too.

The journey these two women make together as they try to get home takes them to some surprising places, with lovely, nuanced performances from both actors. As a female in male-dominated career, Carpanini balances a soldier’s trained responses and checked emotions with the fragility and humanity of someone who is far from home and missing her loved ones. Props to another Stephanie – Steph Bitten – a former UK soldier, for acting as military advisor for the production. As the girl, Ribout does a nice job inhabiting a 14-year-old on the edge of womanhood, playful and child-like – and stubborn – but possessing of a certain gravitas beyond her years.

Until Our Paths Cross Again is a lyrical, moving and thoughtful remembrance, inspired by the true story of Captain Nichola Goddard, the first female Canadian soldier to die in combat. She was 26 years old. In the program notes, we learn that “she didn’t say ‘goodbye’, she said ‘see ya later’.”

Until Our Paths Cross Again has two more performances: tonight (Nov 10) and closing tomorrow on Remembrance Day (Nov 11) – 8 p.m. at Dancemakers (in the Distillery District at 9 Trinity St., Units 313 & 314, Toronto). Tickets are PWYC, with a suggested offering of $10. No worries about getting around the warehouse studio space, there is ample signage pointing you in the right direction, with snacks and bottled water awaiting at the box office table.

My grandfather got to come home. Not all soldiers are so lucky. Who will you remember tomorrow?

We remember – Rarely Pure Theatre’s upcoming Until Our Paths Cross Again

Hey all – wanted to give a shout out to Rarely Pure Theatre’s upcoming production Until Our Paths Cross Again, a play inspired by the true story of Captain Nichola Goddard, the first female Canadian combat soldier to be killed in combat, running November 8 – 11 at 8 p.m. at Dancemakers (in the Distillery District at 9 Trinity St., Units 313 & 314, Toronto). Tickets are PWYC.

Written and directed by the company’s A.D. Monique Renaud, Until Our Paths Cross Again stars Stephanie Carpanini and Katie Ribout, with the production technical team from Ryerson Theatre School.