Sunday, 30 August 2009

I Miss Toronto After Dark

I had a surprisingly good time at this year's Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TAD). I'd been to a couple of films last year, and I interviewed Festival Director, Adam Lopez when the festival first started, but I really didn't think this festival was for me. If you've been reading this blog, then you know that horror dramas are not for me. This year, the diversity of films on offer, and the quality of films on offer, aroused my curiosity enough for me to venture out, sometimes even by myself!

I didn't get a chance to see everything I wanted to because of scheduling conflicts, but I managed to see 7 of the 18 films on offer. (Last year I saw 2-Netherbeast Incorporated, which I loved and Mutant Chronicles which I did not.) If TAD keeps offering me choices of sci-fi, zombie comedies, martial arts epics and edgy action/fantasies, then I will be back for more next year, and I'll be bringing other scardy cats with me.

Now that TAD is done, I miss being in a theatre where people responded to the screen en masse. It may seem strange to those of you who haven't been to the festival, but there is something really satisfying about exclaiming "eeeuuuw!" together or applauding a really good kill or villain. At every screening, you become instant companions in the make-believe world glowing on screen in the darkened Bloor Cinema. Another thing I appreciated was not having to wait until Midnight to see these films. (I'm no spring chicken--I need my rest.)

Shout Outs!
Thanks to Chris L. for being my horror drama proxy and sharing his thoughts on those films I was too scared to see.

Thanks to the TAD Team.

See you next year After Dark...

Festival Director, Adam Lopez with BLACK director, Pierre Laffargue and producer, Lauranne Bourrachot.

Blogger, Heidy M. showing off her BLACK t-shirt (love audience giveaways!); at right, STRIGOI director, Faye Jackson and her producer husband, Ray Muraru.

TAD Programmer, Todd Brown (left); BLACKHEADS director, Chris Nash (right)

Zombie friends, Colin, Kenneth and Roland at DEAD SNOW screening.

Roland (left); Colin (right)

TAD programmer, Dave Alexander (left); Zombie Walkers (right)

Photo Credit: donna g

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Toronto After Dark Award Winners

I was thrilled that two of my favourite films from the Toronto After Dark Film Festival are award winners: Dead Snow and Strigoi. Congratulations to the filmmakers, and thank you to all the audience members who took the time to vote. Awards like these mean a lot to the filmmakers in terms of promoting their existing work and getting funding for future projects.

Did any of your faves win?
Have a look at the press release below:

TORONTO AFTER DARK FILM FESTIVAL is thrilled to announce the Award Winners of its 2009 edition. A record over 3,700 votes were cast by festival-goers this year to determine this year’s Audience Award Winners.


VISION AWARDS, Best Independent Feature Film
The Vision Awards are given out by the Festival in recognition of outstanding independent genre feature filmmaking.

AUDIENCE AWARDS, Best Canadian Short Film

AUDIENCE AWARDS, Best International Short Film

Source: Press Release courtesy of

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Toronto After Dark: Motherhood Scares Chris L. and donna g Says "It's A Wrap"

I really wanted to go to the closing night gala for the Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TAD), but no way could I bring myself to see a movie about a blood-craving baby and its devoted mother. Lucky for me, Chris L. was available. Thank you Chris for being my horror drama proxy, and being plucky enough to see GRACE.

Chris L.: I'd become rather blasé about horror films over the past few days, having seen more suspense and horror comedies than anything else at TAD (my schedule didn't always match TAD's screening of horror dramas) and then I saw GRACE. I will never underestimate the creepiness of the closing gala film any more. GRACE was... unsettling, or as one girl remarked on the way out, "a little nasty". (No wonder I couldn't convince donna g and many of my friends to come with me! They must have sensed something I didn't.)

Kudos to the filmmakers! The picture is actually fairly restrained in terms of violence and blood. Its effectiveness lies in the gradual introduction of disturbing moments and images (got milk anyone?) as the film unfolds; subtly at first, until things end both madly and badly. The film works well because it takes the wholesomeness of motherhood and clean living and thoroughly perverts it by focusing on the obsessive qualities of mothers in providing for their children and on the vegan mission for food purity. I felt itchy all over at the end of the film. I even itched when I handed in my film rating ballot (4 out of 5, by the way). Who can forget that one-liner ending! Thanks After Dark, but I'm seriously
"horrored out" right now. Signing off.

It's a Wrap for Toronto After Dark
Yea, Chris, you're right. What I "sensed" about GRACE was the poster showing a baby bottle filled with blood! As I said in my first After Dark post, I go to TAD for the other types of films that are offered...

I thoroughly enjoyed the French/African action/fantasy BLACK, the Nazi zombie comedy DEAD SNOW, and the wonderful Chinese epic, WARLORDS (love Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro, but who knew that Jet Li could really act! Wow!).

I had fun at the Japanese school girl bubble gum battle film, VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRENKENSTEIN GIRL (who can't appreciate a severed arm propeller?),
was enthralled by the production values of Meanwhile City in FRANKLYN (could have done with less screen time for Eva Green, but Ryan Phillippe wasn't bad), and very much appreciated the classic sci-fi end-of-the-world plot of THE DARK HOUR (really should be The Cold Hour since the Spanish title is La hora fría, but I guess "dark" seems more scary).

My Choice for the Audience AwardI'll have to wait until the audience ballots are counted to find out what the favourite film at TAD was, but
my absolute favourite film was the amazing Romanian political vampire movie STRIGOI. I've been going around muttering "strigoi" since I saw the film. I love the sound of the word, and it evokes images of the main character's grandfather reclaiming blood from his grandson ("It's my blood. I gave it to you"). A well-executed tale about the undead, property rights, communism, and endurance. Bravo to the filmmakers (who flew in to spend their anniversary evening at the screening of Strigoi) for making a horror comedy about Romania's lingering past!

Friday, 21 August 2009

Toronto After Dark: Chris L. Goes Beyond The Forbidden Door

No way was this Scardy Cat going to see a movie called The Forbidden Door. Thanks to Chris L. for not only braving the storm last night to attend the Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TAD), but for finding out just what popular Indonesian sculptor, Gambir (Fachri Albar) and his beautiful wife (Marsha Timothy) are hiding behind that door.

Chris L.: I don't often hear of horror films from Indonesia- and so despite a crazy tornado storm last night, I appeared at the steps of the Bloor Cinema, looking as though I had just jumped into a swimming pool, ready to enter The Forbidden Door. The film starts off normally enough, except for a slightly weird (but hot) wife and some jarring creepy music, then things get a little strange as events of increasing bizarreness are layered on (I especially liked the choice of home decor), with some child abuse thrown in (which seems like something of a theme in this year's film fest), and you're not sure any more what kind of film you're in (which I appreciate). At its heart, the film is a mystery to which there are only so many solutions. The film pulls a familiar kind of "bait and switch" plot device, which I don't generally like in stories of this type, but I'll forgive it because when our protagonist finally entered that door, I was pretty tense, the hairs on the back of my neck were up and I still wasn't sure what exactly would happen- all good signs.

Chris L's Rating: 4 out of 5

The hairs stood up on the back of his neck? No thank you! No way could I have made it through that film, not even for the chance to see TAD's first ever selection (co-presented by Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival) from Indonesia.

I wonder how Chris will react to seeing tonight's closing gala, GRACE. As with every TAD screening, the film will be preceded by a Canadian short, and even though I absolutely love Denis Villeneuve's brilliant work, Next Floor, and would love to see it again, I don't think I can watch a movie about a new mom and her blood craving little baby. Tonight looks like a wonderful conclusion to TAD for those of you who are not as easily scared as I am. 7PM. Bloor Cinema. Tickets $12/$10 students.

Photo Credit: TAD website

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Toronto After Dark: Chris L. Gets Rough

What are you doing after dark? Well, Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TAD) fan, Chris L. took in some martial arts action on Day 6 of the festival. I asked Chris his opinion of director, Hun Jang's Rough Cut, since I couldn't make it to the screening.

Chris L.: I thought Rough Cut was a surprisingly well-thought out action drama. From the handful of Korean films I've seen make it to North America, I've noticed that the Koreans are pretty good at taking elements from seemingly different genres of film and merging them together into a coherent, even plausible whole. In Rough Cut, there are unexpected bright spots of comedy and the hint of romance or, at least, of tangled relationships. It's also a good gangster yarn with well-executed scenes of violence. There are times where betrayal and deception beg the ultimate martial arts movie question:how much can a man change if given a good enough beating?

Chris's Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Photo Credit: TAD website

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Toronto After Dark: Chris L. Saves Scardy Cat, donna g from The Children

I've shared with you the fact that I can't watch scary films, but love the Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TAD) because it offers other genre films that I can watch (see my other posts). So, having been creeped out by some of the TAD movie trailers, I've asked Chris L. to help me out. Below Chris shares his reasons for going to TAD and his take on The Children.

donna g: How long have you going to TAD?

Chris L.:I discovered the fest last year and really enjoyed it, being also a fan
of the Midnight Madness venue at TIFF. TAD also turned out to be an interesting (although slightly unusual) event to take dates to.

donna g: Why do you go to TAD?

Chris L.:
1. For the thrills (much like why someone might ride a rollercoaster) and also to see something surreal
2. I like to comment/talk/make snide remarks/shout during movies, and at TAD, that's not (or at least less) annoying to people
3. There's a lot of innovation to be found in the horror genre (well, at least right now), unlike other areas of film.

donna g: So what did you think of The Children?

Chris L.: It's always nice to see yet another taboo broken down by a horror film- namely killing kids. There's also a lot of satisfaction in seeing certain parents get killled by their own darling little brats; and in seeing said brats get murdered (in self-defense, of course). Not to sound crude or insensitive or anything, but I have to say there wasn't enough child-killing in the movie. I also kept thinking if it were me in that film, I'd be wacking li'l kids left and right with a baseball bat. No mercy.

Chris L's Rating: Good effort overall, 3 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

SummerWorks 2009 Award-Winners

The results are in for 19th annual SummerWorks Theatre Festival.  Below is a list of theatrical award-winners as selected by a jury of professionals as well as the NOW Audience Choice award winner as selected by patron ballot. I have also listed my own Top 5 favourite performances.


SummerWorks Prize for Outstanding Production
The prize is a free trip back to the festival next year. All companies presenting new work were eligible.

"Greenland" by Nicolas Billon, directed by Ravi Jain

Contra Guys Award for Outstanding New Play
Generously supported by two SummerWorks founders, Benj Gallander and Ben Stadelmann, the cash award is presented to the playwright with the best new script in the festival. 
"Say Nothing Saw Wood" by Joel Thomas Hynes
Award for Direction (Sponsored by Crow’s Theatre)
Cash prize awarded for outstanding direction at the festival.
Alan Dilworth for "The Middle Place"

Honourable Mention: Rosa Laborde for "Melancholy Play"

The Spotlight Award
Awarded to a featured performer in a SummerWorks show. The winner receives a VIP pass to the festival next year.
Jordan Tannahill, Amelia Sargisson, Marika Schwandt, Tawiah M’carthy and Rebecca Powell for "The Art of Catching Pigeons by Torchlight"
Andrea Donaldson for "Montparnasse"

The Steamwhistle Emerging Artist Award
Awarded to an artist early in their career who made an artistic impression during the festival.
>Akosua Amo-Adem for "The Middle Place"

RBC Arts Professional Award
A new award at the festival this year, which recognizes the work, craft and dedication of an emerging arts professional. This award is made possible with the support of RBC.

Matt Baram, Ronald Pederson, and Naomi Snieckus for "Impromptu Splendor"
The NOW Magazine Audience Choice
Award Audience members voted by placing their ticket stub in the NOW Audience Choice box before leaving the theatre. The Winner receives $1500 in free advertising with NOW magazine. All shows were eligible for this prize. 

"Greenland" by Nicolas Billon, directed by Ravi Jain

donna g's Top 5 Favourites (alpha order)
benu by d'bi young
Impromptu Splendor by Matt Baram, Ronald Pederson, and Naomi Snieckus (The Perverted Metronome in the syle of David Mamet)
Melancholy Play by Sarah Ruhl
The Crush of Beauty by Laurel Smith
The Middle Place by Andrew Kushnir

Honourable Mention: "My Funny Valentine" by Dave Deveau

Source: Award winnners list courtesy of Daniela Syrovy of Clutch PR; SummerWorks logo courtesy of
Photos: Cast photos of The Middle Place, Melancholy Play and Impromptu Splendor by donna g

Monday, 17 August 2009

Toronto After Dark Film Festival: Zombies, Anyone? This Scardy Cat Soldiers Forth

The Zombies were out yesterday for the Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TAD). Showing its filial love of Zombies, TAD offered half-priced tickets to screenings of the Norweigan Nazi zombie film, Dead Snow, and the American zombie buddy comedy, The Revenant. Many Zombies accepted the offer and could be seen shuffling into the Bloor Cinema in pairs and groups.

As you know, I'm a self-confessed Scardy Cat, so I wasn't sure if I could make it through Dead Snow. Yes, I love zombies, and horror comedies, but I didn't want to embarrass myself in the midst of hard-core TAD-goers, so I was a bit aprehensive. Well, I didn't have to worry. Not only wasn't I the only Scardy Cat there, it was comfortingly cathartic to sit in a sold-out 800 plus seat theatre with people who really love their genre films.

Dead Snow is a Norweigian film about a group of med students who go to a remote cabin in the mountains for Easter break. Their cell phones don't work, they have hiked 45 minutes from their parking spots to the cabin, but all's good because they're in gorgeous, a pristine setting and they have beer. Well, they also find some Nazi gold and have incurred the icy wrath of an undead Nazi army. In classic horror movie mode the students start dying one by one, and that's when the gore and gaffaws start. Yes, I was scared, but I was also cheering along with the capacity crowd as the intestines stretched and blood splattered--really, what else can you do when someone is hanging on to dear life by zombie entrails?

The film will be released in North America, so look out for it. Advice to Scardy Cats like me: yes, you can take it. This film is up there with another favourite, the scary, employee team-building comedy, Severance--sorry, no zombies in that one, but there is a severed head and other nasty killings.

Zombie friends (left to right), Colin, Kenneth, and Roland, distracted from seeing their Zombie cousins on screen by the lure of as-yet-uncoooked meat at Acme Burger, paused in their pursuits to pose for me. Since my flesh was being fried by the 34-degree sun, I did not appeal to them and so was spared disembowelment.

Info: Tickets are $12/$10 students (with proof of student status)

Photo Credit: Dead Snow photo courtesy of TAD; photos of Zombie Friends by donna g (thanks guys).

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Toronto After Dark Film Festival: Filmmakers Navigate Racism in France

The French filmmakers of BLACK were surprised to discover how racist their country is when they tried to get funding for their film, which has a predominantly Black cast. They shared their new-found knowledge about their country's film industry with us last night at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TAD) screening.

Unfortunately, I was not as surprised as the filmmakers or the TAD audience, having heard the same story from director, François Dupeyron at the TIFF '08 screening of his film, Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera/With A Little Help From Myself (Sept. 6/09 post). Like, Dupeyron, director, Pierre Laffargue and producer, Lauranne Bourrachot, had to contend with blatant racist comments that they were making a film for black people and that whites would not be interested. Parisian theatre owners feared masses of black people would attend screenings of Black and cause riots at their cinemas.

Laffargue did get his funding, and I'm glad he did because BLACK is a sensational African action/fantasy romp starring MC jean Gab'1 as Black (Nico in District 13) and Carole Karemera as Pamela (Sometimes in April). (Coincidentally, the film also features Mata Gabin from Aide-toi in the role of Fatoumata.) I love the fact that the filmmakers deliberately sought an actress that was taller than their hero, who could drag him around in handcuffs and shoot a gun at the same time (Karema took shooting lessons). Pamela is a no-nonsense heroine who is well aware of Black's player personality. If you assume she will be the type of woman who will fall quickly and easily into the hero's arms in typical movie fashion "tu rêves" (as Pamela tell Black in one scene).

Lucky for Toronto audiences the film will be released by Evokative Films in the next few weeks at the Yonge/Dundas AMC. Check reality at the door and enter the world of the Lion and the Panther and the Serpent and the Witch.

BLACK's official website: English content.
Toronto After Dark website:
TAD runs until August 21st at the Bloor Cinema. Tickets are $12 per screening.
Photo Credit: photo of Pierre and Lauranne by donna g; BLACK poster courtesy of Evokative Films

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Toronto After Dark Film Festival: Confessions of a Scardy Cat

Confession time. I can't watch scary movies. I get so tense imagining what's going to happen on screen, that I scare myself before anything actually happens.  So why the heck, do I go to the Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TAD)? Well, in addition screening straight up horror films, TAD also includes such genres as sci-fi, action, cult, martial arts, and horror comedies (sometimes one film can encompass all of these elements). 

My favourite film from TAD 2008 was Netherbeast Incorporated, an office vampire movie that had me in stitches. I'd go to work and have humour flashbacks at my desk (very hard to explain).

For TAD 2009, this confessed scardy cat is looking forward to seeing the opening night gala, Black Dynamite, as well as Black, homages to '70's blaxploitation films. I also have on my list the sci-fi film The Dark Hour, the fantasy film, Franklyn (Ryan Phillippe and Eva Green), the horror comedy Strigoi and Zombie flicks Dead Snow and The Revenant (I can't resist a good Zombie comedy). Maybe, just maybe, I'll see Anna Pacquin's film Trick 'r Treat--not sure, though. I'll have to screw my courage to the sticking place for that one.

The pièce de résistance for me will be the Asian triumverate of Jet Li, Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro in Peter Chan's WARLORDS.

The Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs Friday, August 1th until August 21st at the Bloor Cinema, 506 Bloor Street West (Bloor and Bathurst).
Photo/Logo Credit: TAD website

SummerWorks '09: More Reviews

Waiting for the Dawn
I interviewed Mathew Romantini in 2006 about his production of Gorey Story. I didn't get a chance to see that performance, so when I ran into him at the Factory Theatre and found out he had a play in SummerWorks, I knew I had to see it. Anyone who can adapt Edward Gorey's work to the stage is someone I need to follow up with. After committing,though, I wondered about liking the play. I'm almost always honest in my feedback and would have to tell Matthew the truth when I next saw him. Well, Matthew can rest easy. I was very impressed.

Dancing the role of Mr. Vain Imagination, Matthew's moves are sharp, staccato and strong with punctuations of curves and flows that question the nameless world he inhabits. Matthew's acting ability and comic timing makes us accept his transition from Mr. Vain Imagination into the red heels and hat wearing Ms. Idle Fancy. Don't mistake this for a drag show, Ms. Idle Fancy has some serious questions to ask God. We are asked to meditate with her as she waits for the dawn and an answer from God. The wait in silence is sometimes uncomfortable for Ms. Fancy and the emotions that play on her face as she self-consciously stands before us is brilliantly performed by Matthew. My only criticism of the play is that Ms. Fancy's dialogue goes on for a bit too long in comparison to the stage time allotted to Mr. Vain Fancy. I can't wait to see what Matthew Romantini and "Dawn" writer/director, Erika Batdorf will stage next.
Venue B: Factory Studio Theatre *55 minutes
Fri. August 14th 8:00pm, Sat. August 15th 2:00pm

Impromptu Splendor
My Impromptu Splendor will not by your Impromptu Splendor, because it is a new improvised play every time. As an audience member you will get to chose the title, plot points and setting of your Splendor. My improvised play was called "The Perverted Metronome" and was in the style of David Mamet. The comic trio of Ron Pederson, Naomi Snieckus and Matt Baram ran an aluminum siding office. Along with typical Mamet touches of swearing, repetition, criss-cross and double-cross, there were perversions that happened on stage that I cannot share with you. Get your own Splendor. At the end of each show, a member of the audience will be selected to choose the style that the next audience will see, so if you go on August 13th, your style will be à la Tennessee Williams. Enjoy the company of strangers...
Venue C: Passe Muraille Mainspace
Thurs. Aug 13th 10:30pm, Sat. Aug 15th 4:30pm, Sun. Aug 16th 6:30pm

Job's Wife,
People pray to God for many things (jobs, health, wealth), but when their prayers are answered they are not always satisfied. Yvette Nolan's play, Job's Wife examines this issue as it relates to a pregnant young woman and her image of God. I loved the staging of this play, especially the draping of Baby Spirit (Falen Johnson) in a womb-like "basinette". The music/sound elements provided by Jason O'Brien are a perfect complement to the Native sensibilities of the play. Keith Barker is extraordinary in the role of Josh/Him. His natural acting style and movements as he transitions from one character to the next is captivating. Unfortunately for actress Nicole Joy-Faser, Barker's mellifluous delivery makes her line readings sound staged and discordant to the ear. Baker exudes reality; Joy-Fraser acts reality. I can't dismiss this play because of one weak performance; there are just too many things right about Job's Wife.
Venue D: Passe Muraille Backspace *45 minutes
Fri. Aug 14th 4:00pm, Sat. Aug 15th 8:00pm, Sun. Aug 16th 4:00pm

SummerWorks runs until August 16th
Photo Credit: all photos by donna g

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Summerworks '09: Picks and Pans so far...

I've had a chance to see a few plays since SummerWorks (Toronto's indie theatre and arts festival) kicked off on August 6th. Here is my opinion of what I've seen so far...

Hmm...Shadow puppetry, short films, political humour, silly/funny at times. Bob Wiseman plays accordion, guitar, piano and sings songs that are sometimes deemed "actionable" by those in the legal profession. The show is too loosely structured to reveal what the theme is, and the movement from one piece to the next is too disjointed. My favourite moment is the satirical piece featuring a silent film clip accompanied by Bob on accordion, but on a whole, this performance is too long.
Venue B: Factory Studio Theatre
Tues. Aug 11th 6:00pm, Thurs. Aug 13th 10:00pm
Sat. Aug 15th 4:00pm, Sun. Aug 16th 8:00pm

YES! When someone gets it right you know it and you feel it. d'bi young plays benu, from young girl in Jamaica with her "Granny" to young woman in Canada dealing with the pre- and post effects of pregnancy. This is a workshop for a play that will be launced next year in Montreal. Like many in the audience, I was blown away by d'bi's performance and the accompanying music by the multi-talented Waleed Adbulhamid and Tova Kardonne. Kimberly Purtell's lighting design transforms d'bi into a luminous black pearl with the use of shadows and lights.
Venue C: Passe Muraille Mainspace
Thurs. Aug 13th 8:30pm, Fri. Aug 14th 10:30pm, Sun. Aug 16th 4:30pm

The Centre
Women from the future go back in time to examine women from the present day. I was expecting the equivalent of a good, short sci-fi story, but what I saw was bad acting, an even worse decision to do accents (pseudo-Afican? not even sure what that was supposed to be) and a script that seemed hastily put together. My high hopes for b. current's training unit, rAiz'n dwindled away as I watched this play. Disappointing.
Venue B: Factory Studio Theatre
Tues. Aug 11th 10:00pm, Fri. Aug 14th 4:00pm, Sat. Aug 15th 8:00pm

The Crush of Beauty
Fantastic acting and good chemistry between actors (Elva Mai Hoover, Tiffany Martin) can take a simple story about a hostile teen and an ailing older woman and turn it into something special and engaging. (See my Aug. 6th review). Add this one to your list.
Venue I: St. Andrew’s Playground (Adelaide and Brant--a few blocks east of the Factory Theatre on Adelaide West)
Tues. Aug 11th 7:00pm, Wed. Aug 12th 7:00pm, Thurs. Aug 13th 7:00pm, Fri. Aug 14th 7:00pm, Sat. Aug 15th 3:00pm, Sun. Aug 16th 3:00pm Chairs are provided.

Je serai toujours la pour te tuer/I'll Always Be There to Kill You
See the French version, skip the English. Sometimes you need to do more than translate the script; you need to translate the culutre as well. Watching the English performance of this play was like watching a dubbed movie where the voices just don't match the characters and the characters don't suit the setting. Imagine Catherine Deneuve with Fran Drescher's voice. Now imagine Catherine with Fran's voice having a croissant at a Tim's in Sudbury. Not the same as Catherine having a croissant in Paris, is it? Well, that's how I felt watching the English version of this play. The sensiblities just weren't right. Where the French script about a woman who hires a man to kill her moves with a natural rhythm, the English seems forced and jerky. Where the French crackles with farcical elements, the English seems clunky and leaden. Actor, Christian Smith tries his best in the English version, but he is outdone by Manuel Verredyt in the French. Geneviève Trilling, who appears in both the English and French version, is weak in the English but delivers a very funny performance courtesy of the French script by Sophie Tonneau.
Venue C: Passe Muraille Mainspace
Wed. Aug 12th 10:00pm (English), Sat. Aug 15th 6:00pm (English), Sun. Aug 16th 12:00pm (français)

The play revolves around the relationship between mothers and daughters. What is refreshing for Toronto audiences, is that it is set in Trinidad and references Martinique (French dialogue is also used). I would like to see this play again after it's been workshopped and expanded. I would also like to see it with a stonger cast, which should still include stand out actors, Denise Pinnock and Tanisha Taitt, who do a brillant job of fleshing out their characters.
Venue B: Factory Studio Theatre *50 minutes
Thurs. Aug 13th 6:00pm, Sat. Aug 15th 12:00pm, Sun. Aug 16th 8:00pm

My Funny Valentine
Dave Deveau delivers a very stong performance as a young man haunted by the killing of Lawrence King, an openly gay teen who was murdered for giving another boy a Valentine. In addition to the young man, Deveau also plays several characters including, King's younger brother,a young girl, a female teacher disturbed by society's "tolerance", and King himself. I did not want to see this play and went because I had been introduced to Deveau by a mutual friend. I was familiar with the case (which is still on-going), and did not want to immerse myself in a sob-story or something so emotionally draining that I wanted to give up on life. For those of you who share that same aprehension, let go of them and buy a ticket to this play. Deveau's script of the tragedy is fictionalized, but he does an incredible job of humanizing the story with his various characterizations, situations, and journey into what King and those around him may have been like. Well done, Dave Deveau and director, Cameron MacKenzie.
Venue D: Passe Muraille Backspace *50 minutes
Wed. Aug 12th 8:00pm, Thurs. Aug 13th 10:00pm, Sat. Aug 15th 6:00pm, Sun. Aug 16th 12:00pm

Say Nothing Saw Wood
By and featuring Joel Thomas Hynes. The play won a Newfoundland Art's and Letter Award for Best Dramatic Script, but I fell asleep watching Hynes move back and forth within a lighted block (simulating jail) on the stage floor, and listening to him recount the incidents that lead to him being incarcerated. Great performance, but in a 75 minute play in a very dark room, I need more variety of expression in the voice in order for inertia not to set in. The addition of music to the performance would also help to engage me without taking me out of the story being told. There is a wealth of musicians from NFLD that could compose and perform music to suit this play. Liked the story on paper, but have problems with the staged version.
Venue B: Factory Studio Theatre *75minutes
Thurs. Aug 13th 8:00pm, Fri. Aug 14th 10:00pm, Sun. Aug 16th 4:00pm

Sketch'In Toronto
This workshop piece about the lives of four women is directed by d'bi young, and presented by her arts centre, anitafrika!dubtheatre. The work is performed by women of varying ages, and combines choral elements, movement and individual narration to reveal what women do in order to survive and to feel safe. Each actor devleoped her own character's story with the group working as a whole to develop the workshop to date. It will be interesting to see where it goes from this point. I think the piece would benefit from the unique viewpoint of a trans (male to female) character.
Venue D: Passe Muraille Backspace
Tues. Aug 11th 6:00pm, Wed. Aug 12th 4:00pm, Fri. Aug 14th 8:00pm, Sat. Aug 15th 12:00pm

SummerWorks Website:
SummerWorks runs until August 16th.

Photo Credit: All images courtesy of with the exception of Keen, My Funny Valentine, Sketch'in Toronto (photos by donna g)

CORRECTION NOTICE: My sincere apologies to LS. In my original post I stated that the piece was about 4 prostitutes. Only 3 of the 4 characters were, in fact, prostitutes. I thank LS for pointing out this misinterpretation.  Please read her comment below about her role.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Summerworks Festival: "Crush of Beauty" is a must-see

If you're in or passing by St. Andrew's Playground and you hear a young woman screaming at a bunch of "morons", don't worry, it's Dora-nominated actress Tiffany Martin expressing her outrage at off-stage (off-park?) over-sexed grade nines. Martin is extraordinarily realistic in the role of Sara, a young woman raging against the unfairness of life, and the Old Woman (Gemini and Genie nominated Elva Mai Hoover) who has intruded upon her special place in the park, her bench.

In just six short scenes, seasoned writer/director, Laurel Smith, brings us into the world of these two women. Sitting in a draped section of the park, we eavesdrop on every bit of their conversations, following the passage of October days, and the sharing of details about their lives. Under Smith's direction, the pairing of Martin and Hoover is an equisite balance of acting and characterization, with both actors fully inhabiting their roles while the restrained, spare writing subtley reveals only as much about each woman as is necessary and right for their acquaintanceship.

Venue I: St. Andrew’s Playground –Brant & Adelaide Street W. Seating provided.
The Crush of Beauty: Aug 7, 7pm / Aug 8, 3pm /
Aug 9, 3pm / Aug 11, 7pm / Aug 12, 7pm / Aug 13, 7pm / Aug 14, 7pm /Aug 15, 3pm / Aug 16, 3pm

SummerWorks Tickets/Info: or 416.504.7529

Photo Credit: Burning Passions Theatre

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