Skipping Stones Theatre’s “Life of Len” at the Windsor-Walkerville Fringe Festival

The Windsor-Walkerville Fringe provided another afternoon of exceptional theatre with Life of Len produced by Skipping Stones Theatre. This one man show starring Eric Branget follows Len through several of the highlights in his life. Most of these memories focus on his relationship with his brother, Jimmy, and how things change with each life event.

Branget plays Len from childhood to old age, and watching the transformations happen instantaneously was impressive in its seamlessness. From a young Len, obsessed with space travel and Flash Gordon, to an elderly man who can’t find anything (it may be lost in the 90’s) Branget adeptly navigates all of these situations and everything in between. We get to fully understand Len, and where some of his trouble-maker nature comes from (he didn’t mean to break the radio the second time, he swears), but also the great deal of hero worship he has for his brother, and how that translates to the choices he makes throughout his life.

One of the most ingenious elements to the play was how the other characters were represented on stage. Instead of talking to blank spaces and imaginary people, Branget uses household items to bring the other characters to life: Jimmy is a coatrack, Peter (Len’s son) an umbrella, and Pearl (Len’s wife) a lamp. Not only did these objects become something for Branget to play off of, they also provided opportunity for a great deal of comedy and were an unexpected but entertaining accent to the performance.

A personal favourite, and one of the more poignant memories, of the play was when Len decided to go and fight in World War Two. What’s normally depicted in such serious manner is made light as Len complains about his chores with his battalion and has shreds of maps all over his barracks. Yet in this levity we hear some of his most touching remarks about his brother; his presence in Len’s mind all too fresh and frequent despite the distance and trying circumstances. It was a beautiful moment, and really struck a chord for me.

The play ends with this beautiful playing with the phrase Please Play Again, the roll-up-the-rim result no one wants, but is a moving reminder of just how short life is and how the ones we love will always be there for us, one way or another.

There are only a few more chances to catch this awesome piece at the Olde Walkerville Theatre! July 28 at 1:15, and July 30 at 1. Don’t miss it!!

Drawing Board Production’s “Bedwetter” at the Windsor-Walkerville Fringe

Drawing Board Production’s latest creation, Bedwetter, depicts the real life trials and victories of Tamlynn Bryson, the co-creator and story-teller. Directed and co-created by Kyle Kimmerly, Bryson reflects on her childhood from ages seven to fifteen and what it feels like to have “accidents” even when entering into young womanhood.

What I loved the most about the piece was its breathtaking honesty. I can’t imagine what it must be like to talk about a difficult part of your past so openly with groups full of strangers every day. But Bryson fearlessly shares her story, and knowing that every element and emotion expressed in the play is true gives a gravity to the levity she’s able to make of the situation now. 

Part of that levity comes from the ability with which Bryson is able to switch from one character to another in her story. Her changes in physicality and voice that accompany each new personality create her world for us while showcasing the immense talent of the actress. Even Kimmerly gets in on the action, doing Goofy-cartoon style voiceover instructions for some of Bryson’s more trying sleepovers.


The pop culture references which were included in the show were very powerful; they showcase not only what is put out in the media about bedwetters, but also how inundated we are with those references and therefore what we’re supposed to think about them. The majority of them came from comedy shows, where the bedwetter was always the butt of the joke. It was especially impactful to hear them drown out Bryson’s own positive voice: a perfect example of how negative media affects us, no matter how loud we think that positive voice is. 

 And these perceptions changed so drastically over time for Bryson as well, going from being open and honest about her situation to hiding it from virtually everyone in her life. It was difficult to watch as her self-esteem is broken down little by little by characters she’s playing herself. But it so accurately depicted what it’s like being a teen who’s maybe a little outside of “normal” that everyone is able to connect to her story. 

You need to check out this hysterically self-referencial, moving, and engaging show at the Olde Walkerville Theatre July 26th at 1:15pm, July 27th at 7pm, July 28th at 5pm and July 29 at 3:45.

Photography: Corey Palmer

Photo Editing: Larissa Nodwell 

Stratford Festival’s “Breath of Kings: Rebellion and Redemption”

When the news came out that Graham Abbey had been working on an adaptation of four of Shakespeare’s history plays, and that they were going to modify the Tom Patterson Theatre especially for the production, I was thrilled. There’s nothing more exciting than getting to see a brand new piece and in a totally different way than it would normally be staged. Breath of Kings exceeded my expectations and gave me a totally different view of Shakespeare’s histories; it made me want to see the full versions immediately!

Breath of Kings: Rebellion tells the story of Henry Bolingbroke and his rise to power over King Richard II, using the plays Richard II for its first act and Henry V Part 1 for its second act. A political thriller for the first act turns into a bloody battle for supremacy by the second, making for an amazing buildup to the final battle. Breath of Kings: Redemption focuses more on young Henry, or Prince Hal, and his rise to power through Henry V Part II and Henry V. Once again culminating in an epic battle, this piece was fascinating and fast paced as young Hal goes from miscreant to King overnight.

The most immediate thing that struck me was the stage. Not only was it redesigned to be theatre in the round (which I LOVE) but for Rebellion there was a thick layer of mulch covering the stage. This mulch would be pushed, dragged, and raked all over the stage. I loved how when the play needed to take place indoors the mulch was pushed aside with the boxes to create a hallway-like path. But for me the best part was after the battle scene, the mulch had been spread back out over the stage, so there was this amazing map of the battle left on the floor after the actors had left, I can only imagine how incredible it must have looked from above. For Redemption, the stage was the bare white that you could see underneath the mulch, but as the battle of Agincourt was waged, the floor came up in these massive, jagged pieces which left the earth turned up and ragged by the end of the play; a torn world which Hal will be responsible to put back together. Paired with amazing costuming and lighting, the play was a visual spectacular and every detail and movement carried such weight and purpose.

The cast was massive, with a whole host of Stratford’s best populating the stage. Helmed by Graham Abbey (Henry IV), Tom Rooney (Richard II), and Araya Mengesha (Henry V) the level of passion in these performances breathes such life into these pieces and makes them the memorable experience that they are. Richard II was such a fascinating character, the way we watch him succumb to Bolingbroke and his men, then seeing Bolingbroke, who used to wield amazing power, get so ill was heartbreaking. The whole time you’re watching their enemies try to rise against them, while others rally to their side. I had previously seen Henry V in full, and so knew of the death of Falstaff, but what I hadn’t realized was that he died of a broken heart; it broke my heart to see Hal cast off his old friends, miscreants though they may be, in favour of being the “king” he thinks he has to be. He rejects their company almost immediately instead of helping them as he’s now able to do. This deeply saddened me, and actually made me watch the second act of Redemption with a totally different gaze than I had when I saw Henry V. I was also thrilled that the Chorus in Henry V was kept, the Chorus has some of the most beautiful poetry in Shakespeare’s cannon, and the play would have felt incomplete without it.

One of the elements that was particularly interesting was how many men were portrayed by women. It brought the dynamic to a totally different level to both pieces, and seeing these women in power roles was inspiring. It confirmed the level of innovation and expertise that was poured into this show and made it an experience I’ll never forget.

I was absolutely blown away by this production. I cannot begin to recommend it enough. The plays close September 24th, so catch it before it closes!!

Stratford Festival’s “John Gabriel Borkman”

I had been greatly anticipating this show since it’s announcement. I was excited to see a new Ibsen play which I new nothing about and which starred so many of my favourite actors at the festival.  John Gabriel Borkman surpassed any and all expectations I had for the show, presenting an intriguing story beautifully told by its actors and designers.

John Gabriel Borkman is one of those shows which you carry with you once you leave, which is something that I love about theatre. You leave feeling like you’ve been affected by this piece.  It’s rather incredible really, because it is an odd premise, but it’s presented in such a way that I left the theatre mulling it over in my mind for hours.

The story itself is interesting, about a Bank Manager who looses everything and we watch how it affects his family dynamic long after the event has actually occurred. The tension between family members is palpable, and it makes for a riveting story as detail after detail is revealed about their past an how that has come to affect their present. The events of the play were eerily similar to modern cases such as that of Bernie Madoff, making the play far more relatable to our modern audiences than Ibsen could have ever anticipated. At the same time it always is a little unsettling when you see a play written 120 years ago and can find the same behaviour in the world around you; an amazing situation of how life can imitate art.

The stage and set where so whitewashed, and then when the characters enter in their jet black costumes, they seem so foreign in their environment. For me, their dark ensembles truly embodied the pain and suffering that they were enduring. From the black lace of a widow, to draping black velvet, their costumes outwardly displayed their inner torment in such a beautifully visual manner. Especially when juxtaposed against the crisp white of Frida’s dress or the light purple of Mrs. Wilton’s ensemble, all of which plays against the white stage and the snow that tumbles from the sky at the play’s end; it’s a visually stunning show which left me breathless.

Another breathless moment occurred right at the beginning of the play, as twin sisters Mrs. Borkman (Lucy Peacock) and Miss Rentheim (Seana McKenna) first see each other after years of not speaking. When Seana enters the stage, there is this amazing moment where they just stare at one another, taking each other in after so many years apart, and it’s like the theatre collectively held their breath until one of them spoke. Seana and Lucy are such incredible foils for one another in whatever show they are in, but this one was particularly impressive. The way that they are able to play off of one another and the struggle between the two which only gets deeper the more we discover about their pasts made the piece riveting. You become so invested in their lives and why they don’t get along any more and it truly makes you feel deeply for them, especially once you realize that they’ve both been hurt by the same man: John Gabriel Borkman. While I don’t want to give away the juiciest of details, it’s amazing to see how one man in his quest for greatness is able to destroy everything and everyone around him. Scott Wentworth did a phenomenal job portraying the tortured Borkman, whose dream of wealth and glory still haunts him after so many years of his scandal haunting his own family. While you want to hate him for what he’s put his family through, there’s something sympathetic in his desire for something greater than himself and wanting to be able to pick back up once he’s been knocked down. The three leads were perfectly cast, and to watch them all play so well off of one another was truly a pleasure; it’s like watching an All Star game, where the best of the best get to play together and the audience watches in awe of them.

Something that really strikes me is how the play bears the name of John Gabriel Borkman, and while the story is about how his decisions have affected all of the people around him, it’s truly the women who drive the play. It’s Mrs. Borkman’s need for her son to make something of the Borkman name again which drives young Erhart away, but it’s also Miss Rentheim’s total denial of Borkman’s dreams has more power than I think even she realized she could wield over him. Erhart (Antoine Yared) thinks that running off with Mrs. Wilton (Sarah Afful) and Frida (Grace Eddleston) will give him a new life, yet he’s still under the influence of a woman and her desires. In the end, it’s the reconciliation of the sisters which provides a true sense of satisfaction and closure to the piece. It was truly a marvel, one which I will not soon forget.

There’s only one week left of performances of this stunning show! It closes Sept. 23rd, so don’t miss out on your chance to take in this amazing work.

Stratford Festival’s “As You Like It”

I was so happy to take two of my dearest friends to Stratford for their first time to see As You Like It back in June. We had been planning the trip since last December, so we’d been counting down the months and weeks until we finally got to go! The show was well worth the wait, and was way beyond expectations.

The setting for the show was wonderfully done; from the costumes to the hair, they didn’t miss a beat at making sure we knew it was the 80’s! Setting it in the East Coast made it even more fun. It really helped with the inclusive feel of the show (more on that to come) and gave a whole different kind of energy and life into the performance. The singing and dancing was infectious! We couldn’t stop smiling and danced all the way to the car. The set itself was beautifully simplistic and malleable, making each location distinct and lovely; the Forest of Arden being the most beautiful of all.

As I mentioned earlier, the show asks for full audience participation, and what a joy it is to do so! Upon entering the audience is asked to take a small bag with several items inside (most of which you get to take home!) and you are given instructions by Hymen herself (played by Robin Hutton) as to what props to use when. It was great fun and made for lots of laughs. One of my favourite moments happened in the second scene of the play, as Celia (Trish Lindström) is trying to comfort her saddened Rosalind (Petrina Bromley), Celia takes away the tub of ice cream that Rosalind has been devouring, and offers it up to an audience member. “Sure! I’d love some!” I said, and next thing I knew I had a tub of ice cream with a scoop or two of vanilla left in the bottom. With a thumbs up from Celia I figured I’d likely not get an opportunity like this again, so I enjoyed the rest of the ice cream throughout the next scene. What a treat! We laughed about it all through dinner! We loved getting to be trees in the Forrest, waves in the sea, and a lush meadow fit for a wedding. If you love to feel like a part of the show, you’ll love this production!

Aside from the setting, Jillian Keiley made another fascinating choice which I really enjoyed seeing played out: the Duke and Jaques were both women in this production. It was a very interesting contrast to the usually male dominated sphere of the Forrest. The Duchess Senior (Brigit Wilson) is surrounded by her people, and is therefore more safe than Rosalind and Celia would be on their own. But Jaques’ character is even more layered in this production, and made her even more interesting.

Jaques was portrayed by Seana McKenna, who outdid herself once again with this role. Hearing her say one of the most famous speeches in the Shakespearean Cannon (“All the world’s a stage…”) was even better than I had imagined. What fascinated me most was Jaques’ position as a voyeur, and how that was manifested in this play. It is frequently mentioned how melancholy Jaques watches the world go by, commenting on things as (s)he goes, however in this production, the voyeurism goes to the extent of Jaques having cameras and notepads, ways of recording what (s)he sees. The notion that (s)he was, in the court at least, some kind of reporter makes total sense, and also explains some of the melancholy that (s)he finds in the world. It was brilliant!

These are truly just some of the highlights of what will always be a memorable show to me. The whole thing created such a perfect image of what this play can do, and where Shakespeare’s words can take us, it’s well worth seeing. Bring the family and go on a theatrical adventure! I truly can’t recommend this show enough! For ticket information, visit http://www.stratfordfestival.ca

The Grand Theatre “Shrek the Musical”

My friend Joseph and I decided to take a last minute theatre journey up to London on January 2nd to go and see a few of our friends in Shrek the Musical just before it closed. It was quite the experience and the show was adorably wonderful.

So amazingly enough, we got to sit in the front row despite having only gotten rush seats, and that was definitely a great choice. This was a play that was just too much fun to not be in the middle of!

The sets were wonderfully fanciful, and I especially loved the story book that the characters could walk right through. The costumes were likewise whimsical and very much akin to what was seen in the movie that the musical is based on. I liked that they added in some new characters and/or gave more recognition to characters that were only minor parts in the movie, like the Wicked Witch or the Sugar Plum Fairy. However the Dragon’s costume was hands down the most impressive. The dragon itself was a giant puppet divided into 6 pieces that weren’t actually attached. Therefore it forced the actors to keep very close together and be very in sync to give the illusion of a whole dragon. The voice of the Dragon (in our case Ayrin Mackie) was then dressed in a fabulous sparkly/scaly dress whose colour was the same as the dragon. It was amazing to watch and the children in the audience responded well to it.

The story itself stayed very true to the movie, including some dialogue direct from the movie, while also adding in several new musical numbers for the play. I was particularly happy that they left in a good deal of the dialogue, it made the play recognizable for the children (and the young at heart) but it didn’t make you feel like you were just seeing the same thing either.

The acting was superb, and a great job was done by all. It would take me forever to mention all of the people involved in this show, but who I do want to point out are the young ladies who played the two young version of Fiona. They had very difficult roles in terms of playing not only Fiona but then other of the forest creatures. They performed well both vocally and dramatically, and Joseph and I were very impressed. I can say rather confidently that if either of those girls wants a career in acting, they will have no problem at all making that happen.

Overall, it was a wonderful family show. I heard just as much laughter from the adults in the room as the children. I was very happy that Joseph had asked me to go as it wound up being a wonderful adventure.

Tarragon Theatre’s “Sextet”

I know that this post is a long time coming. I actually saw this show at the beginning of December and unfortunately it’s no longer on. However, I still wanted to share my thoughts about the show, because it was just that good. Enjoy!


For me, there is nothing better than being able to see a brand new play. There’s something exhilarating about knowing that there are just a handful of people who have seen this play before you have, and that hopefully you’ll be able to follow the success of such a marvellous play in years to come. That’s how I felt after seeing Sextet by Morris Panych at the Tarragon Theatre this past weekend. This was our first time at Tarragon, and I must say I was rather impressed with the whole experience.

Immediately upon arrival in the theatre, the set captivates you. These six tiny rooms, with their tiny beds (and all matching to boot!) must have been quite the feat for the set designer. Because of the many doors and rooms, the play was able to have this wonderfully farcical feel which kept the pace high in and amongst the stories of the lives of these musicians. However, one of the most amusing details about the set is that none of the times on the clocks matched! It was funny, and as most travellers know, very true. Once the characters come and invade this space, you see how much their personalities stand out against the bland backdrop. Because of the sameness of the rooms, and yet the inability to tell where they are or what time it is paired with their inability to leave the motel, it made the play almost absurd in nature. I really liked that element, because it gave us more of a chance to focus on the people and their current situations, which makes you so much more connected to them.

That was one of the easiest and best things about Sextet: the characters and coming to love them. We realize through many soliloquies and scenes of quick dialogue how all of these unique individuals can come together and play, and yet why they don’t always get along. The discussion of sexuality and how it was dealt with I found refreshing and endearing. We feel for the main character, Harry, as he takes us on this journey of self-discovery. It also makes for some very funny and awkward moments in the play, and the dialogue is so witty that it made a subject that can be taboo to something that was natural and amusing.

Honestly, it was such a pleasure getting to see this play. It was full of familiar faces who I adore who took me on a fantastic personal journey. I related so much to the one character, and it was amazing to see how things would up for her. I just can’t even seem to put to words all the amazing things that I felt about this play, and I wish it was still on so everyone could enjoy it!