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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

 

the general: a perfect match

alex ferguson

Alex Lazaridis Ferguson is a theatre artist based in Vancouver. He writes plays, acts, and occasionally directs. He's also a founding member of the performing poetry ensembles, AWOL Love-Vibe and VERBOMOTORHEAD. His writings on theatre have appeared in publications such as Canadian Theatre Review, The Boards, Transmissions.

The General The General
You’ve got to enjoy this one. Before the movie starts, the outrageously accomplished Eye of Newt ensemble warms up the crowd with a jazz improvisation that foreshadows some of the tactics it will use to underscore Buster Keaton’s classic film The General. Stephen Smulovitz (violin and saw) and percussionist Pepe Danza start off with a weirdly haunting violin–mouth-harp duet that pulls at the heart while relaxing the body. Paul Plimley then layers in a piano ‘score’ that echoes the movie’s original soundtrack while maintaining a contemporary feel. Plimley, Danza and Paul Blaney (double bass) will drive us through the emotional peaks and valleys of Keaton’s epic slapstick journey, with Brad Muirhead’s trombone and Smulovitz’s saw adding comic inflection. The trombone, and the violin and saw (which sounds a lot like a theremin, actually) will also create dissonance, colouring the film’s original moods with a palette of exquisitely darker tones.

The pre-show improvisation has the effect of activating our imaginations and surreptitiously encouraging our vocal participation with the movie. This was a surprise to me — I hadn’t expected people to cheer and clap at Keaton’s antics. I’m used to movie patrons who are well behaved. But if the film has suffered any lack of impact since its 1927 debut, Eye of Newt and the enthusiasm of an all-ages crowd restored its immediacy. Keaton’s inventive choreography and physical daring prompted cascades of laughter, squeals of delight and more than a few gasps.

In the film’s American Civil War setting, Johnnie Gray (Keaton) is a Confederate train engineer who has but two loves: his engine “The General,” and Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack). Annabelle is a patriot, so when Johnnie is rejected by the army he falls out of favour with her. She tells Johnnie not to show his face again until he’s in uniform. Johnnie redeems himself by diverting a Yankee attack almost single handedly, and by rescuing Annabelle (who was inadvertently kidnapped by a guerrilla unit).

There are plenty of heart-stopping train stunts and enough tumbling feats of daring to keep our eyes popping and our necks craning. Eye of Newt matches Keaton stunt for stunt. The musicians catch every pratfall and every double take. They have an arsenal of well-timed responses to the shifting moods of this surprisingly layered film. The General is given an infusion of new blood by Eye of Newt, just as Johnnie is redeemed when his commanding officer gives him a new uniform. Keaton was at the top of his game when he made The General, almost in a class by himself. It’s fitting that for this engagement he has been paired with five players whose powers inhabit the stratosphere of musical invention and ability.


The General, director Buster Keaton, musicians Eye of the Newt, Vancouver East Cultural Centre, Jan 27; PuSh International Festival of Performing Arts, Jan 16 - Feb 3

Alex Lazaridis Ferguson is a theatre artist based in Vancouver. He writes plays, acts, and occasionally directs. He's also a founding member of the performing poetry ensembles, AWOL Love-Vibe and VERBOMOTORHEAD. His writings on theatre have appeared in publications such as Canadian Theatre Review, The Boards, Transmissions.

© Alex Ferguson; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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