Upcoming art & photography exhibits: Nora Camps & Lisa MacIntosh

Wanted to quickly shout out two upcoming art exhibits:

Painter/photographer Nora Camps exhibit CAPRICCIO. Real and Imaginary, with guest artists Marietta Camps, MaryAnn Camps and Pamela Williams @ the Papermill Gallery at Todmorden Mills – from August 28 to September 7.

Photographer Lisa MacIntosh: ASK exhibit @ 3030 Dundas West – from September 4 to October 4. LMP_AskPoster2014

In the meantime, you can check out some previous cowbell posts on a Pamela Williams exhibit, and my photo shoot and interview with Lisa MacIntosh.

A beautiful, moving look @ identity & the inevitable tick tock of life – East Side Players’ Elizabeth Rex

ERI had the pleasure of being back at Todmorden Mills Papermill Theatre last night for East Side Players’ production of Timothy Findley’s Elizabeth Rex, directed by Jan Francies.

A history-inspired, memory play, Elizabeth Rex presents William Shakespeare as our host, as he remembers an evening in a barn with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men after a royal performance of Much Ado About Nothing 15 years earlier. It is the evening of his own death; in the memory, it is the night before Elizabeth’s ex-lover Essex goes to the axe for leading an uprising against her. In the memory, the men are visited by a restless Queen – and throughout the night, Elizabeth, Shakespeare and actor Ned Lowenscroft (famous for playing women) exchange quips and debate the nature of identity from the various angles of sex, gender, politics, art and power. All played out with the ever-present chiming of the clock – reminding all that time is running out.

Francies has an excellent cast for this journey: Lydia Kiselyk’s Elizabeth I is layered with all the complexity and power of this fascinating monarch. She is sharp-witted and regal, suffering no fools; yet open to council even as she is torn between emotion for her former lover Essex, and duty to her position and country. Michael Harvey gives us a lovely Ned Lowenscroft, with a rapier wit, a diva’s demand for perfection and an unapologetic love of men, coupled with vulnerability and empathy, and the haunting knowledge that his time and life are ebbing away as he struggles with his own impending death from “the pox” (syphilis), contracted from an evening with a handsome Irish captain. Christopher Irving brings us a passionate, cerebral and conflicted Shakespeare, performing a careful balancing act with the often opposing demands of art and politics, even as he comes to terms with his own feelings for the young Earl of Southampton. Other cast stand-outs include Malorie Mandolidis, who is a delight as the far-sighted company seamstress and den mother Kate Tardwell; and Paddy Cardarelli is endearing and lovable as veteran player Percy Gower, who loves to tell how he once intoxicated men with his portrayal of women before he came to be a character actor in his advanced years.

In addition to the symbolism of the tick tock of the clock, we are reminded of humanity’s inescapable final destination through the bear that Lowenscroft rescued from the pits, which moans with painful remembrance when the dogs bark, the hounds constantly nipping at its heels, even if just in its mind. And there is a beautiful moment of compassion and comfort between two key players, mirrored by one of the actors holding the bear as the dogs bay. Findley also provides a thought-provoking image of a present-day ‘pox’: Lowenscroft’s pox sores resemble those of AIDS-induced Kaposi’s sarcoma, his colleagues asking if he knew how, and from whom, he came by the disease.

With shouts to set designer David August and lighting designer Clay Warner for the transformation of the Papermill stage into the Queen’s barn, the warm glow of candlelight on wood, the metal of the brazier and tack, and the use of the top loft space opening in that gorgeously mottled red brick back wall; and to the exquisite period costumes by Alex and Carmen Amini of Chifforobe.

East Side Players’ Elizabeth Rex is a beautiful, moving and finely acted exploration of identity, and the inevitable and finite tick tock of life. This play is not produced often, so it’s well worth the trip to the Papermill Theatre – the show runs until June 7.

A delightful crush fest of summer love – Amicus Productions’ A Month in the Country

A month in the countrySpent a delightful afternoon at the Papermill Theatre at Todmorden Mills yesterday for a matinée performance of Amicus Productions’ A Month in the Country (Ivan Turgenev, translated by Constance Garnett and adapted by Christopher Douglas), directed by Maureen Lukie.
Family, friends and household staff feel the heat – and, in most cases, not just the seasonal temperature – at the country home of Natalya and Arkady. Secret love and repressed feelings bubble to the surface, creating a chaotic mess of dramatically comic proportions during a series of surprises, confessions and emerging rivalries.
Lukie has an excellent cast, consistently strong across the board, for this comedy of love. Kathleen Jackson Allamby is lovely as Natalya; conflicted, bored and adored, equal parts caged lioness and spider spinning. Chris Coculuzzi gives a stand-out performance as Mihail, sharp-witted with an equally pointed tongue, all the while simmering with a desperate love for his dear friend, who happens to be his best friend’s wife. Sam Polito is adorkable as the shy and affable tutor Alexey, loved by one woman and smitten with another; and Nicole Marie McCafferty is endearing as Vera, the energetic and outspoken ward of the household, a girl on the brink of womanhood. James Lukie’s Dr. Shpigelksy is deliciously misanthropic and cynical beneath the charming bedside manner and, in his own practical, logical way, is smitten himself; Sara Kohal gives a great, layered performance as Lizaveta (Anna’s companion), who is good-natured and warm, open to love herself but not suffering fools. Zvi Gilbert’s Arkady is sweetly clueless in an absent-minded professor sort of way, but ultimately no push-over; and Carol McLennan is a delight as Arkady’s protective mother Anna, comical in her bafflement as she tries to make sense of and provide advice amongst all the goings-on. And Derek Dorey is great fun as Boltshinsov, the older man too afraid of the opposite sex to make his own proposal of marriage. Young cast members Vivien Shepherd and Lorien Aquarius also bring strong performances: Shepherd is a treat as the precocious young housemaid Katya, both witness to and messenger for the various love-afflicted among the household; and Aquarius is adorably rambunctious and mercurial as Natalya and Arkady’s son Kolya.
Shouts to set designer Arash Eshghpour for the minimalist, yet extremely effective and lovely environment for this story. The set has a lightness and sense of floating to it, as do the costumes, by Katherine Johanna Cordero, the light colours and fabrics evoking both the period and the season.
One of my favourite plays (I’ve seen other fine productions at the Shaw Festival and by Soulpepper), seeing A Month in the Country yesterday reminded me of this song:


Amicus Productions’ A Month in the Country is a delightful, funny and touching crush fest of summer love – running at the Papermill Theatre until May 10. Get yourself over there and fall in love with this play. In the meantime, check out the interview videos with the cast on the Amicus website.

Titanic mystery & intrigue in Amicus Productions’ haunting, twisting Scotland Road

scotland road deck chair!Amicus Productions explores the romance, mystery and tragedy of the Titanic in its production of Jeffrey Hatcher’s Scotland Road, directed by Victoria Shepherd.

“The Titanic – a symbol of arrogance, glamour and tragedy – has captured the imagination and passion of generations … Scotland Road tells the story of a passion so powerful that it transcends time and logic, completing a journey that was started over one hundred years ago.” – Victoria Shepherd (from the Scotland Road press release)

This is a perfect play for director Shepherd, a Titanic aficionado with a wealth of knowledge about the subject and a great love of storytelling. The “Scotland Road” of the play’s title refers to the lower-deck passageway that ran the length of the RMS Titanic. The cast does a lovely job handling the layers of these characters – like the enigmatic young woman, rescued as she floated in period dress on a piece of ice in the north Atlantic, each has his or her own mystery, and even a secret or two.

West McDonald is aloof, arrogant and entitled as John, with a touch of ruthlessness and cruelty – or is it something else? Laura Vincent takes the mystery-shrouded Woman from a mute, statue-like victim to a haunted, dreamy and passionate survivor. As the Woman’s medical caregiver, Anne McDougall gives us a Halbrech with compassion and empathy, protective of her young patient, with a decidedly tough and irreverent edge. As the last living Titanic survivor Frances Kittle, Paulette St-Amour brings a wry-witted, no-nonsense attitude to a seemingly frail and elderly recluse. But no one is as he or she seems.

Big shouts to a fabulous design team – Alexis Chubb (set), Emily Haig (costumes) and Jamie Sample (lighting) – whose work creates a world that’s time-trippy and eerie, the sterile and sparsely furnished set bringing to mind a piece of modern, utilitarian architecture, an iceberg and even the Titanic itself. And to master carpenter Brent Shepherd for the gorgeous replica first class deck chair (made of oak and pictured in the set photo at the beginning of this post), and sound designer/composer John Stuart Campbell for the evocative and haunting original soundtrack (give a listen to the song “Take Me Down”).

A family affair production, the soundtrack also includes voice-over and backup vocals from the Shepherds’ daughter Vivien, with additional voice-over work from Christien Shepherd, and young family friends Oliver and Finn Scott.

So much goes on during the course of this long one-act “metaphysical fairytale” (thanks to Victoria Shepherd for this phrase) that just when you think you’ve figured it out and can see where it’s going, it takes another turn. Then it’s over. And so quickly.

Check out the trailer for Scotland Road.

But wait – there’s more!

Artist Matt Chapman exhibits his Titanic-themed canvasses and plays music from onboard the ship before each performance. Read about Chapman’s first solo exhibit.

Scotland Road runs at the Papermill Theatre at Todmorden Mills until February 8. Check the Amicus website for exact dates, times and ticket reservations.