FLO'S GIRLS written and performed by Catherine Vaneri, directed by Sean Mulcahy. Presented by Joan Theatre at Theatre 620 (620 Spadina). Runs to December 15, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm. $18. 416-534-0464. Rating: N
flo's girls is the kind of show that toured the provinces in the 30s and 40s, an attempt at emotion-rousing theatre staged with grand gestures and heightened dramatics. I thought the style was history. It should be.Writer/performer Catherine Vaneri's one-woman show looks at Florence Nightingale, "the lady with the lamp," who created the profession of nursing during the Crimean War. Moving back and forth in time but without a strong structure, the work shows an old Nightingale recalling her past, including the high-born family that disapproves of her work and her battles with men in power over what she considers her mission to reform health care.
Vaneri never touches our emotions during the repetitious piece; the people she portrays are outsized caricatures instead of characters. The clumsy swings in time give us little sense of development, while director Sean Mulcahy encourages melodramatic performance. We're told that war is hell -- that's news to someone? -- but we're never made to believe it. Even the warning blast at contemporary cuts to health care has a hollow ring.
And just when you hope she won't do it, Vaneri walks onstage with a lamp.