One of the striking things about Bernard Pomerance 's award-winning play The Elephant Man is that the title character, John Merrick, is never shown onstage with his many physical deformities.
Instead, during a verbal description of the man, the actor -- in the case of the Canadian Stage production, the wonderful Brent Carver -- suggests the bodily twists and growths that made Merrick a sideshow freak before he came to the attention of Frederick Treves ( Geraint Wyn-Davies ), a doctor who gave him some human dignity.
"It's a wonderful way to approach Merrick," says actor Kate Trotter , who plays Mrs. Kendal, the actor who became Merrick's friend and confidante. "You aren't smacked in the face with his appearance but are introduced to it slowly. It's tough to confront something that's frightening and unknown, and the instinctive response is to pull away.
"Instead, Brent and director Robin Phillips gather you into Merrick's world, allowing you some comprehension of his state."
Mrs. Kendal, a well-known classical actor of the 1880s, introduced Merrick to a cultured world he'd never imagined.
"She's the kind of woman who knows she can do pretty much what she pleases. A friend of just about everyone in society, she called the Prince of Wales Bertie and had the use of the royal box at the theatre," says the thoughtful Trotter, whose recent TV work includes the steely boss Stella on The Jane Show.
"Mrs. Kendal has the generosity of spirit and the interest in people to join Merrick on his journey. She appreciates his intelligence and sense of humour, and I think she falls in love with him in a pure way.
"She can get past his physicality, look him straight in the eye and go to his heart. She sees his needs, and her generosity helps him become the man he wants to be."
Trotter thinks Mrs. Kendal's work as an actor gave her insight into the human condition that few others in the play have.
"Merrick, with his sense of irony about himself and the world, is the most honest of the characters. Because Mrs. Kendal can distinguish between acting and not acting she approaches his level of honesty. Most of the other characters can't do that."
Andrew Moodie 's The Real McCoy , a 2006 hit at Factory Theatre , returns to open the company's season. Even better, a series of ancillary events, all followed by a performance, underline black people's accomplishments in art and science.
The play looks at black Canadian-born engineer Elijah McCoy, whose work in thermodynamics revolutionized the steam engine and its use in travel. Over the course of his life, McCoy -- the phrase "the real McCoy" came to mean a genuine, trustworthy article -- filed 57 patents for his inventions.
The production again features Maurice Dean Wint in the title role.
During the run of the show, the International African Inventors Museum has an exhibition at the theatre.
There's also a funder for Visions of Science , which promotes science and technology in various under-represented communities, with Moodie as guest speaker (Friday, October 12). Also look for an evening of storytelling (October 18), a reading by playwright Beau Dixon (October 26) and a funder for Engineers Without Borders (November 1).
There's a nice ring to I Remember Toronto WhenÉ , presented October 28 by Moodie's project Toronto the Good and the Jamaican Canadian Association . An afternoon of storytelling about the experiences of newly landed immigrants, it looks to bridge the generational gap and preserve immigrants' cultural heritage.
New this year at Factory are $10 night rush tickets on Friday.
See www.factorytheatre.ca .
They're likeable and energetic, but the cleverly named sketch troupe Approximately 3 Peters have a way to go before they're consistently funny. Sharper writing would help.
Their hour-long show, Pet3rs Kill Time , on every Thursday in October at 11 pm at the Second City, features a series of 22 sketches, some stand-alone, many related to a makeshift cardboard time machine.
This low-tech device lets them travel through time and space, visiting Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, the Jays' 1993 World Series bid, even the first rehearsal by the Beatles. The set-ups are imaginative, but the payoffs seldom follow through.
Writer/performers Pete Hill , Peter Gal and Ian MacIntyre make much of their fanboy knowledge. The best continuing bit involves a minor character from Return Of The Jedi. Their strongest theatrical scene, nicely helmed by director Andrew Currie , concerns a funeral that's right next door to a circus.
The troupe is less successful with a send-up of TV design shows, a seance that gets out of control (and has no logic) and a pointless sketch about three self-absorbed guys drinking Stella.
As with a lot of guy-only troupes, there's too much silliness on display, too little character and genuine emotion.
Calls for submissions
Several groups have issued calls for scripts or performance projects.
Presented by the Theatre Centre , the third annual Block In One Spot is a before-hours Queen West multimedia art party with an emphasis on those who live or work in the neighbourhood. This year's theme, Ice Breaker , includes music, dance, theatre, poetry, film and installation.
Curators seek creators of interactive booths, participants in a cabaret based on a prop suggested by applicants, contributors to an art display and volunteers who can work on the tech side. Deadline is October 15. See details at www.theatrecentre.org or contact email@example.com .
Factory 's seventh CrossCurrents Festival runs next May, and producer Nina Lee Aquino is looking for original stage works by writers of colour from across the country. Several plays, including The Real McCoy (see above) and Catherine Hernandez's Singkil , went on to full productions after their workshops here. Emerging and established writers are encouraged to apply.
Accepted scripts get dramaturgical support and a staged reading. One-acts, works in progress and proposals are welcome, though full-length pieces are preferred. The festival is open to Canadian citizens or landed immigrants. Deadline is October 31. For info, see www.factorytheatre.ca or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .