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RealTime @ PuSH


 Da Contents H2

February 9 2008
glow: electric life
andrew templeton

push festival
palace grand: theatre of the self
andrew templeton


small metal objects: beautiful logic
andrew templeton

push festival
February 7 2008
clark and I somewhere In connecticut: the one who cares
meg walker

glow: analog passion, digital driver
meg walker


glow: critter conflict
alex ferguson

push festival
instructions for modern living: night fears
anna russell

palace grand: grand illusion
eleanor hadley kershaw


small metal objects: the invisible revealed
eleanor hadley kershaw

push festival
January 31 2008
small metal objects: magic micro culture clash
alex ferguson


January 30 2008
my dad, my dog: beyond the frame
alex ferguson

the general: a perfect match
alex ferguson

January 28 2008
aout - un repas à la campagne: echoes of chekhov
alex ferguson

fever: disciplined mania
anna russell

push festival
my dad, my dog: between worlds
andrew templeton


my dad, my dog: disconnection sketched
meg walker

 

frankenstein: without tears

eleanor hadley kershaw

British-born, Eleanor Hadley Kershaw is currently based in Brussels, facilitating communications with IETM - international network for contemporary performing arts/réseau international des arts du spectacle. She has a Foundation Diploma in Art, Media and Design and a BA in English from Cambridge.

The Vancouver East Cultural Centre, fondly known to locals as the “Cultch”, seems to be an ideal setting for a gothic horror about the possible dangers of playing God. Formerly an abandoned church, its wooden panelling and winding staircase could be creepy if explored alone on a dark stormy night. Tonight the chirpy crowd creates a homely community atmosphere. We cram in, haphazardly thrown together around the least pillar-restricted spots. The uneven floor almost trips me as I make my way round the back of the balcony to the last few empty velvet-covered seats. We huddle together as though round a campfire, eager for the ghost story to start.

Unfortunately the two hour performance doesn’t possess the quirky quality that makes this space so inviting. The eight performers creep hunchbacked and white-faced around the stage, head to toe in the white papier maché-like costuming which also covers the set, oversized beansprout trees and all. They step and grimace in time to the rhyming couplets with which they narrate the story of poor Victor Frankenstein. His childhood, tainted by the death of his parents, and his subsequent unnatural obsession with bringing the dead back to life, resulting in the creation of his monster, are illustrated with frequent songs, clockwork tableaux, and of course, the obligatory lightning flashes. The choppy narrative style keeps us at a distance from the characters portrayed, preventing any lasting emotional engagement. But this gap is not filled with ideas in an attempt at intellectual engagement. The didactic message is clearly spelt out with little space for ambiguity: “if life is a bowl of cherries, one day you’ll choke on a pip”; “the higher you climb, the harder you’ll fall”; don’t mess with nature or pretend to be God, 'cause you’ll get what’s coming to you. The text is strung through with cliché and the irony of the final song of the first act is unbearable: “We’re going to hell in a handbasket; does it get any better than this?”.

After the lengthy courtroom scene that ends the first act, in which Frankenstein’s beloved governess is sentenced to death (we’re not even rewarded with a dramatic execution) for a murder that his own creation, the monster, has committed, my hopes for the second half are not high. However, as the monster – also costumed in white paper from his platform-booted feet to his oversized Stetson – emerges from the shadows to tell his own story, things start to look up. In an unusually touching scene, for once uninterrupted by song and narration, the monster tries to cure his loneliness by befriending an old blind violinist. He breaks down and sobs as he describes his fear of rejection and his companion reaches out to comfort him. Realising that there is something “other” about the creature, the elderly man slowly traces his hands over the gruff monster’s long white claws, and up towards his bandaged face: “Ah, I understand.”

But sadly this friendship, and any potential depth to the piece, is not to be. The man’s family arrive home and chase the creature away in horror; the image of compassion dissolves, along with my tolerance. We are re-introduced to bitty tableaux and songs that fail to elaborate on the rhyming verse. The ideas inherent in Mary Shelley’s novel, her subtle ambiguities about identity, creative responsibility, and our relationship with the outsider, the “other”, seem to have been lost somewhere along the line in this production’s intention to be well-polished. Which it is: well-performed, well-sung, smoothly assembled.

Perhaps the problem here is the show’s packaging. This dummed-down version of Shelley’s novel feels like a show for children, but it isn’t announced as such. I’m bored by the relentless songs, but these might well sustain a 5 year old’s attention through the more complex parts of the plot. I’m disappointed by the lack of darkly gothic frights, but there’s no danger of nightmares for over-imaginative toddlers as a result of a nasty theatrical shock. However, even within the frame of “family theatre”, accompanying parents and older children might still be left wanting something a bit more jagged, a bit more inventive, with a few more original ideas. Nonetheless, the passionate local audience embraced the production…but have they embraced the unknown?


Catalyst Theatre, Frankenstein, writer, director, composer Jonathan Christenson, performed by Nick Green, Andrew Kushnir, Sarah Machin-Gale, Tim Machin, Nancy McAlear, Dov Mickelson, Tracy Penner, George Szilagyi, designer Bretta Gerecke, Choreographer Laura Krewski, lighting associate Kerem Çetinel, sound designer Wade Staples; Vancouver East Cultural Centre, Jan 15 -26; PuSh International Festival of Performing Arts, Jan 16 - Feb 3

British-born, Eleanor Hadley Kershaw is currently based in Brussels, facilitating communications with IETM - international network for contemporary performing arts/réseau international des arts du spectacle. She has a Foundation Diploma in Art, Media and Design and a BA in English from Cambridge.

© Eleanor Hadley Kershaw; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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