“So often in a one-person show, the heart sinks when you actually realize that this is it, nobody else is going to show up,” the late theatre critic Carole Corbeil once wrote.
“It may be that a one-person show, like monogamy, is a difficult and challenging form in which one person is rarely enough.”
I stumbled upon these amusing lines while researching a column I wrote about Corbeil a couple of years ago and have been saving them to share. But they were actually written to kick off a piece that Corbeil wrote back in 1996 in praise of one of Canada’s great masters of monologue: Daniel MacIvor.
Solo performance continues to be a kind of theatre practised by many top-notch Canadian theatre artists, despite being mocked in certain corners. (Did you catch Sunday’s episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm guest-starring Clive Owen as thin-skinned version of himself, performing in a one-man show?) Indeed, at the moment, Toronto is having an accidental mini-festival of one-person shows.
Much talked about this month, the talented performer/playwright Yolanda Bonnell’s bug is now in its final week of performances at Theatre Passe Muraille. The University of Toronto’s Karyn Recollet wrote enthusiastically about her experience participating in this artistic ceremony earlier this week in The Globe and Mail.
Another solo show that opened in Toronto last week (on Valentine’s Day, in fact) is Grounded, the first offering of a new theatre company called TheatreSix. George Brant’s play is about “an ace fighter pilot whose unexpected pregnancy ends her career in the sky” – and this production stars Dora Award-winning actress Carly Street, who has quite the following and has acted on Broadway in addition to most of Canada’s major stages.
This week brings another monologue (with songs) over at Canadian Stage: How to Fail as a Pop Star, written by and starring Vivek Shraya, which opens to critics on Wednesday. The Globe’s Marsha Lederman interviewed Shraya in Calgary last month when she was presenting it at the High Performance Rodeo.
I’ll be seeing Grounded and How to Fail as a Pop Star this week – and also, at Factory Theatre, a show that has a fairly big cast by new-Canadian-play standards: Marjorie Chan’s Lady Sunrise, described as “a tale of social climbing and the fraying social fabric among the wealthy and hangers-on of Vancouver’s Asian-Canadian community.” Look for reviews of those three online later this week.
Toronto, of course, isn’t the only city where Canadian artists are going solo right now.
Exciting Consequences opens at Prairie Theatre Exchange this week with the eye-catching tag line: “Let’s talk about sex, Winnipeg!” The provocative performance artist Ming Hon’s new 18+ show about sex and pleasure in the era of on-demand, pervasive pornography is in the 'Peg from Feb. 19 to 23.
In Vancouver, playwright/emcee Donna-Michelle St-Bernard’s Sound of the Beast is being presented at PL1422 by Rumble Theatre from Feb. 19 to 23. Here’s my review of the show – which is told through a mix of spoken-word and rap – from when it premiered at Theatre Passe Muraille.
And to continue that journey westward – way, way westward – Indigenous playwright Darrell Dennis’s Tales of an Urban Indian opens at the Adelaide Fringe this week, starring Brendan Chandler. This particular production of the play, directed by Herbie Barnes and staged on a moving bus, originates at Talk is Free Theatre, the wonderful small theatre company with big ambitions based in Barrie, Ont.
Tales of an Urban Indian may only involve one actor, but it has played to many, many more audience members in its more than 500 performances since 2009. If you can’t travel to the other side of the planet to see it, it returns to Barrie in March.
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