By Melissa Farmer
So let’s get a few things straight. This will be a very personal and biased response to Spent. There will be no money puns, none at all, to be found in the next150 words. If I don’t know you, if you know nothing about “that Lehman guy”, if you hate everything all the time, I still think you should go and see this show. Here’s why:
Spent is relatable and smart. Set within the framework of a BBC news broadcast, we meet not only a pair of Bay street traders who have lost their jobs, but also the media who are reporting on the catalytic economic collapse. As the two downtrodden buffoons leap from a building in an effort to make it all go away, we are right there with them (and, we have been here before) pre-fall, mid-plummet, post-collapse. We giggle at a twitching Richard Fuld, the former CEO of Lehman Brothers who has managed to keep his pockets full; we giddily abhor the greedy devils and their maniacal gluttonous Hell and we recognize that guy we’ve all seen on the news who just wants to know how he’s going to afford his next burger. In its swift seventy minutes, we meet a bunch of absurd characters (all skilfully played by Ravi Jain and Adam Paolozza) who offer different ways in to the bigger question: to a collective who can put a price on everything, how much is an individual worth? It’s inventive, energetic, clever, fun theatre.
My cheeks hurt from smiling for seventy minutes straight. From Jain’s entrance with a “Hire Me” sign and a shaky, hopeful smile, I was sold. As Bay street traders, these two out-of-luck sad sacks are just trying to make tomorrow better than today. As the sundry other characters they play, Ravi and Adam emerge as masters of their craft. Their rapid-fire precision is incredible. On this stage, they are having fun and they are working really really hard. They are sweaty and spitty and you will still want to shake their hand, pat them on the back and give them a spitty, sweaty hug. It’s such a gift to be able to watch someone do something that he’s really really good at doing. It’s something I want to do more often.
Go see Spent. It has a short run, so hurry. Theatre like this is a rare commodity.
SPENT is on now until at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (50 Tank House Lane). For tickets call:
416-866-8666 or click here.
With the amount of hype behind the Mirvish production of WAR HORSE, the show needed to be pret-ty spectacular to live up to it. Fortunately, it is and it does.
To me, there is nothing more invigorating than a theatrical production that uses the conventions of a theatre (set, lights, props, sound and actors) to effectively tell a story. By that, I mean that the artifices of a theatre are capitalized on to not only enhance the story, but are used in the actual telling of the story so that the plot and the theatrical componants are inseperable.
WAR HORSE embraced this philosophy and I loved it.
Take the horses. Without exaggeration, I can honestly say that they are works of art, and the actors manipulating them portray the nuances of a horse with fantastic accuracy. The horses are a showstopper when they’re moving (running, jumping, etc) but it’s in the smaller, more minute movements, where the real magic happens. The ears twinge, the tail swishes, the head shakes – all incredibly life-like and always simultaneously executed by three different actors, giving the impression that in addition to sharing the same horse costume, the actors also share the same brain.
The amount of rehearsal behind this had to be exhausting. But so worth it. I felt real compassion for those horses even though I could always see the human legs underneath them.
The set = simplisity. So much so, that when I walked in, I was initially disappointed. It's a black stage with a piece of distressed-looking white material hanging half-way down the proscenium archway, looking like it’s been ripped from a book (a theme that ties in with the play). But this non-descript white material immediately became a versatile backdrop for projections to establish settings, time, action and was easily one of the more ingenious ideas in the production. A-mazing.
The props, along with the horses (which are also, arguably props) were my fav. Venues, places, town, were easily established with the slight change of props. One minute you're in a livestock auction, the next you're at a farm and the only things that changed were the placement of some sticks. (ok, and a couple more things but, really, barely anything!) It's all just so clever.
The actors, overall, were also dynamite. Although I think the lack of personal mics caused some of the actors to overcompensate for volume. Alex Furber, who plays the lead Albert, was a bit… yell-y.
I kept wondering if he’s going to sound like Brian Johnson from AC DC before the show’s run is through. The O.T.T. voicework detracted from some of the actors’ dramatic range and the heavy cheese factor of the script unfortunately compounded the melodrama effect. (How many times do we need to hear Albert dramatically yell “JOEEEEEEEYYYYYYYY!!!” to know that he loves his horse.)
But the cast is really fabulous. They work HARD throughout this show and it's evident in the precise execution of almost everything they do.
WAR HORSE is a beautifully directed play. I felt like those who created it love and appreciate the artform, and that came through in all its innovative glory. It made me proud that the cast was all-Canadian and to know that the abundance of talent on stage is homegrown. Yelling and awkward songstress entrances aside (an idea that probably worked in theory but not practice), WAR HORSE is a theatrical experience for the history books.
WAR HORSE is on now at the Princess of Wales Theatre (300 King St. W.). For tickets click here or call: 416-872-1212. #WarHorseTO