A Truly Canadian Experience
Having grown up backstage and having aspired to be a stage performer myself I can now report that Canada is finally and truly living up to its potential. The land of immigration, the collector of all members of humanity has a theatre that reflects this multi faceted picture. It is finally ok to have an accent in this country and be on stage without being laughed off it!
The Atrium Players Theatre Company has decided to present to the world plays of a variety of theatrical traditions. The plays will focus exclusively on a complete style, system, and technique from around the world and will be performed by Canadians of diverse background. And thus what does it matter that the players are from all over the world map and have different accents?
The play we saw was an English language premier of "Biography-A game" by famous Max Frisch of Switzerland. And was of course supported by the Swiss Consulate General, whose staff had turned out in full force. Performed in an intimate space, fairly barren and industrial, thus qualifying for the term experimental, the play is a revised smaller version than the original, which had 33 characters. Frisch reduced it to 5 and created thus something that could still be followed without having to draw a map of everyone’s lineage.
What the audience experiences is a story, an ordinary story of attraction between a male and a female. The story is set, as though there is a play going on and a director directs the traffic of life in this play; except there are all these different possibilities to explore. The "what if" question gets popped again and again and one expects the events to take a totally different turn, but do they, will they?
The scene changes according to the actor’s whim, of course by design of the playwright, not by improvisational efforts, which is what it feels like. The totality of the story is told in an incidental manner, like real people might really act in real life if they had the opportunity to relive what happened to them. Russian Michael Chekhov, nephew of Anton, developed this technique and trained many well-known actors in it, including Anthony Quinn, Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Marilyn Monroe. It is method acting, but not as usual.
A play of life, of people’s biographies could be banal, as banal as people’s stories in the big scheme of things. After all, what is important to people, what do they do with their lives? They eat, sleep, fornicate, get married, have children, change friends, try to survive as best as they can. With hindsight some things could have been decided differently.
Edvard Zinoview as Hannes Kuerrmann came across as the well meaning cerebral academic he was - suffering from the same stigma as Elliot Trudeau - being interested in socialism/communism as an alternative form of society - somewhat inapt with women (unlike Trudeau), trying to be generous and understanding. In the end, try as he might to change his fate he does not understand how things could not turn out differently by making totally changed decisions in his life again and again. We see him play through the various scenarios. In the end he learns what we all have to learn: We can only change OUR decisions, not those of the others surrounding us. Their actions have a large influence on our lives, and therefore our lives do not really turn our so different, as long as the players remain the same.
Jennifer Kuipers was very focused in her roll as Antoinette Stein, a thoroughly modern and liberated woman, or so it seemed, capable of loving and caring, yet easily bored, and ready to move on.
Shawn Mathieson as the Director emulated his part lifelike and with authority despite his young years.
The Female Assistant was played by Dragana Varagic. Her part required many changes as many characters to flesh out the story, and that without significant costume changes. Only the occasional prop was used. Amazing what she could portray that way. The same goes for the Male Assistant, stage manager, and several other characters, some of which demanded a lot of physical activity. Paul Babiak handled these strenuous expectations masterfully.
This was excellent ensemble playing where everyone could shine!
Translated by Birgit Schreyer, directed by Tatiana Chouljenko we have to thank those responsible for their vision in creating a theatre experience that truly reflects the Canadian psyche, one that reflects more than one soul that lives within us, as Faust exclaimed so adequately.
We can hardly wait for the next offering!
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