From breakdancing classes to mini-operas and from art exhibits to stand-up comedy, the first Hysteria festival (October 23-November 2) was a welcome hit of artistic estrogen.
Co-sponsored by Buddies and Nightwood and curated by Moynan King and Kelly Thornton , the 11-day event scored with audiences.
Among the highlights was Jennifer Fawcett 's walkabout History Of Hysteria: A Lesson In Seven Parts , in which we followed actors Meagan O'Shea , Lisa Pijuan , Kathleen Phillips and narrator Fawcett outside and inside Buddies for incisively comic episodes set in ancient Greece, witch-burning Salem, Victorian England and Freudified Vienna.
More upsetting was Ruth Madoc-Jones 's In The Garden , in which the bodies of three nude women were scrawled with misogynistic male texts from biblical times to today. Having the trio blindfolded and anonymous made their objectification even more unsettling.
INSTANdictable UnpreTANEOUS gave new meaning to the term multidisciplinary. The expressive Yvonne Ng danced in, around and over John Little 's 6-foot iron percussion sculpture Sagromides Of Venus, a humanoid figure that composer Erin Donovan struck, bowed, plucked and strummed to create an eerie soundscape.
Corrina Hodgson 's Recess explored what happens to a trio of grade-eight young women over the course of a school year, with smoking, cutting, lesbianism and shifting friendships among the slice-of-life topics. Director Natasha Mytnowych 's cast - Lindsey Clark , Jordana Commisso and Charlotte Gowdy - made us feel we were eavesdropping on behind-the-gym conversations.
Ann Holloway 's laugh-out-loud, in-your-face, often poetic Kingstonia Dialect Perverso traced several decades of sex and put-downs in her native Kingston.
But it was Cast Iron , a solo piece written by Lisa Codrington and directed by ahdri zhina mandiela , that made the strongest impression. Premiered by Codrington in the 2002 Fringe and since then workshopped in Groundswell, it's the tale of Libya Atwell, a black woman in a Winnipeg nursing home who recalls her childhood on a sugar cane plantation in Barbados. Even with script in hand, Alison Sealy-Smith was electric as Libya and a dozen other figures - with a change of vocal timbre, a shift of the legs, a furrowed brow, she switched back and forth - proving that this Cast Iron can heat up impressively. Full production, please.