Titanic effort

APRIL 14, 1912 by the company, directed by Allyson McMackon (Theatre Rusticle). At the Studio Theatre (235 Queens Quay.


APRIL 14, 1912 by the company, directed by Allyson McMackon (Theatre Rusticle). At the Studio Theatre (235 Queens Quay West). To September 29. $12-$17. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNNN


The sinking of the Titanic has inspired good and bad art, most of it as full of big-budget hoopla as the fabled ship itself. But it’s hard to imagine a quieter or more simply moving meditation on the event than this piece, the latest by the thrilling physical company Theatre Rusticle .

Inspired by the story of one of the ship’s surviving Marconi officers, Harold Bride, April 14, 1912 (named for the date of the tragedy) does more than recreate events. Bride ( Patrick Conner ) and his fellow officer, Jack Phillips ( Matthew Romantini ), are real characters, and through them we hear the literal and imagined hopes, dreams and fears of the passengers.

But the production’s brilliant conceit is having Lucy Rupert decked out as the Ship. This isn’t as weird as it sounds. Her first appearance, in set designer Lindsay Anne Black ‘s tattered but once-regal costume, is suitably majestic and, as she waltzes with the world’s rich and famous passengers, the image works on so many levels — she’s the femme fatale, the Grim Reaper — it’s dizzying.

Director Allyson McMackon knows that the best theatre lets us use our imagination. Look how a frantic SOS attempt becomes a comedy routine, or how — in one of the most unforgettable moments I’ve seen this year — the ship lists slowly, slowly and slowly. You won’t hear a thing except stifled sobs from the audience.

The beautiful stage picture includes Black’s hypnotic icebergs — which look to be made of cellophane — and Michelle Ramsay ‘s lighting design, whose incremental changes affect the show’s mood and feel.

The spare script combines monologue, well-chosen songs and the occasional hymn, and McMackon interweaves it all, confidently drawing out themes like memory, hubris and, especially, courage. The piece feels so full of life you’ll be amazed to discover there are only three actors. And what actors: clear, precise and understated, and thus more effective.

This triumph of movement theatre is one of the best of the year.

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