Nobody Sang For Adam - God DidSaturday, January 14, 2012
Malcolm Parry, former editor of Vancouver Magazine, during its golden age in the 80s, Vancouver Sun gossip columnist and also my friend has often defined for me what he calls the privileged position. Anybody can buy tickets for a play and sit smack in the middle of the front row. If lucky you can also buy tickets for a theater-in-the-round experience and get the action from all the angles.
But only a few can get the next best thing, that Parry-Privileged-Position of looking down when everybody is looking up. In November of 2008 I saw Bill Dow in a Main Street Production of David Mamet's play Glengarry Glen Ross at the Little Mountain Studio on East 26 Avenue at Main Street. I was in a room in which the chairs were lined up against the walls. The actors would stomp around us, just about stepping on our feet and the action, loud, was jarring, in our face and wonderful.
|Gabrielle Rose & Meg Roe
Since then I have been to very good theatre in Vancouver but that Glengarry Glen Ross has lingered in my memory.
I have seen lots of very good avant-garde, most of it courtesy of the Electric Company Theatre. No Exit, Eadweard Muybridge - Studies in Motion and Tear the Curtain come to mind. The latter was a co-production with the Arts Club Theatre as Bill Millerd knows what’s good when he sees it.
Yesterday at noon my wife and Rosemary were privy to a theatrical co-production between the Electric Company Theatre and The Vancouver Playhouse Theatre Company called All The Way Home. It is a play written by Tad Mosel (slightly modified to make the geographical place names Kamloops and Merritt, BC). It had virtuoso acting and most pleasant singing. It is directed by Kim Collier.
The show was at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Entrance to this show came via the back stage entrance on Beatty Street. Why? Because we the audience sat on, around and in-between the set, smack in the middle of the stage.
For most of us (although I have been back stage many times) the stage can seem smaller than it is. But once you are on it you can understand why Emily Molnar, Artistic Director of Ballet BC would be reluctant to save money by moving to the Playhouse. The stage is huge and most appropriate for a modern ballet company. I can see why the Vancouver Opera would never move to the Orpheum. The Queen Elizabeth stage is a cavern and with the few lights that were on it seemed to me like I was about to cross the River Styx to Hades.
This play features a ghost but there were many more that I could sense all around me. We were sitting on low benches, others at a kitchen table or in cushions by the living room. There was a mat by my feet. It was during the play that Rosemary and I discovered we were at the entrance to the house. Actors would pass us by (inches away) and they would wipe their shoes.
|Kim Collier & Jonathon Young
I do not want to reveal much of the plot, which is about a family sometime during or right before WW-I. The mother, Mary Follet (played by the inimitable Meg Roe) is a devout Catholic, her husband Jay is a gentle atheist who just might fall off the wagon. Jordan Follet plays their young son Ivan who is the cement that binds the family. There are too many surprises which future playgoers will discover. It is only at the end that we the audience watch the curtains go up and look into an empty theatre. The feeling is one that left me satiated but empty at the same time. We quietly left without wanting to speak to anybody we knew. It is that kind of a play. It is that kind of a play where the avant-garde is not really in the production, the special effects or anything else. It is all internal, put there by a cast that knows what it is doing. Sitting in the round I don’t think I have ever seen more tears.
I don't think that sitting on that other side of the Queen Elizabeth stage will ever be again the same for me.
I am illustrating this blog with some iPhone pictures I snapped of the set during the intermission. The other photos are of the actors which I have taken through the years. If Alessandro Juliani looks like Henry V it is indeed the case! The picture of Tom McBeath I took for his role in The Caretaker a production of the The Playhouse Theatre Company in 2003. I believe that Bill Dow was the director.
|Jonathan Young & Meg Roe
Photo courtesy of the Electric Company Theatre