Wanted on the voyage
Clay & Paper Theatre is known for shows that combine puppetry, music, masks and social message in an outdoor setting. This year's summer production, Between Sea & Sky, is one of its wittiest.
Written by David Anderson and Krista Dalby, it uses an end-of-the-world scenario to set a group of people, Noah style, on a voyage to an unknown destination. Trouble is, there's only room on the ship for those whose occupations begin with the letters A to P: there are biologists and mimes, numerologists, kleptomaniacs and babysitters, but the queen and others are left behind.
Under Anderson's direction (he also provides much of the show's music, along with Chris Wilson), the five-member troupe (Eva Barrie, Amanda Holder, Christina Opolko, Leeann Downes and Jesse Nerenberg) populates the ship as well as (with the help of puppets that resemble Escher drawings) the sky above and the sea below.
There's more puppetry, too, of the Punch and Judy variety, with our own prime minister (he is a P, after all) getting a good licking by both Punch and Judy. Here and elsewhere, the broad performances are nicely suited to the Dufferin Grove Park venue.
Forced by a group of glitter-rock pirates to turn around and think about those they've left behind, the ship's company learns the importance of community.
The family-oriented show, running under an hour, is preceded by a curtain-raiser from Cyclops, Clay & Paper's cycling-oriented puppet squad, a new street troupe (Ange Loft, Natalie Morgan, Renna Reddie and Aaron Rothermund) that brings environmental and cycling issues to the public.
Their show, The Greedy Fisherman, also relies on masks and puppets in the tale of a fisherman who takes more than he needs from the ocean and suffers for it. The fairy tale becomes an allegory about overfishing, a subject touched on in Between Sea & Sky.
As Canada's foremost feminist theatre, Nightwood has cultivated the work of women writers, actors and directors for the past three decades.
To celebrate its 30th anniversary next season, the company's planning the 4x4 Festival, which will showcase the work of directors Weyni Mengesha, Kim Collier, Eda Holmes and artistic director Kelly Thornton, presenting the work of a quartet of international playwrights.
Ancillary events in the November fest include a directors' summit, industry panels and a series of discussions around the mainstage programming. For more info, see nightwoodtheatre.net.
First, though, the company presents its annual series of works developed in its two youth series.
On Saturday (July 25), Write From The Hip offers six scripts by developing playwrights Adeela Ahmad, Shannon Blake, Erin Fleck, Megan Flynn, Jordi Mand and Dharini Woollcombe. A troupe of emerging and established actors will present the pieces, with direction by Audrey Dwyer, Holmes, Shari Hollett, Sarah Stanley, Rose Plotek and Melee Hutton.
The next day (Sunday, July 26), you can catch a presentation by the Busting Out! group, young women aged 12 to 17 who both write and perform their material.
Want more work by young women artists? The Baobab Youth Theatre Group presents African Women Are As Strong As The Baobab Tree, written and directed by Angolan-born Sauro Agostinho.
Its central figure, Julia, is an African woman who survives an abusive relationship and provides for her family in a difficult time.
Seems this is the week of performances by up-and-coming theatre artists.
We usually get to see the work of students from local arts schools such as George Brown, Ryerson, York and Humber. Here's a chance to check out grads from a more distant theatre training program: Canadore College's REP 21 returns to Toronto with its annual presentation of plays in rep.
Composed of second-year grads from the North Bay school, the troupe stages John Murrell's Farther West, directed by David Fox; Douglas Carter Beane's As Bees In Honey Drown, directed by Ralph Small; and Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant Of Inishmore, helmed by Rod Carley.