Tag Archives: nicole english

Letters from (and to) A Doll’s House

torvald nora

Tim Marriott, as Torvald, and Nicole English, as Nora, in A Doll’s House. Photo Kristen Finlay.

Dear Captain Awkward:

I’m worried about my old friend. I just moved to her city, and we’ve been spending time together for the first time since she got married.  Captain, I think she’s married to a Darth Vader Boyfriend.  She pretends to follow his order not to eat macaroons, but sneaks them behind his back.  When I offered to help her with some mending, she pushed me into the kitchen with the help, saying “Torvald can’t stand to see anyone sewing”.  And he totally mansplained me the other day about how knitting was an ugly low-class pastime and advised me how to do embroidery instead.  She goes along with his whims to a ridiculous extent and she thinks he’s wonderful.  Captain, what can I do?

  • (pronouns she/her). 

Dear Ask a Manager:

I don’t have good references because I made some mistakes in my past.  No charges were laid, but I was stuck using some sketchy schemes to make money for a while, until I got this entry-level job at the bank.  Now I’m keeping my record clean and looking forward to promotion.  When I found out one of my old school friends was hired as the new vice-president, I was sure this would be an advantage for me.  So I started dropping in at his office and reminiscing loudly about the things we got up to at school.  And now he says I’m being too familiar and he’s given me a written warning and a pink slip!  However, I’ve got something on his wife (see above, sketchy schemes), so I was thinking that I should just blackmail them into letting me keep my job and move up at the bank.  Nothing can go wrong with this, right?

NK


Dear Miss Manners:

As I am in chronic pain due to congenital syphilis (which my nanny told me was my father’s fault), I would like to die with dignity while I have some agency.  I don’t think my friends could handle seeing me in rough shape, so I’d like to tell them to stay away.  What’s the approved way of notifying them using visiting cards? 

Doc


From Dan Savage, Savage Love, confidential to NoNoNora:  DTMFA.


The conflicts and choices portrayed in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, first produced in 1879, are disturbingly timely in 2017.   Alex Hawkins directed the current Walterdale Theatre Associates production to show the complexity of all the characters and the ways class and gender affect their choices. Nicole English (last seen as Mrs. Lovett in ELOPE’s Sweeney Todd) is troubling and inspiring as Nora, and the rest of the cast is strong as well (Tim Marriott as Torvald, Dave Wolkowski as Krogstad, Marsha Amanova as Christine, dale Wilson as Dr. Rank, and Leslie Caffaro as Anne Marie).   The designers worked with the restrained palette of 1879 Norway to create an atmosphere embodying both oppression and beauty, with set by Joan Heys Hawkins, costumes by Geri Dittrich, lighting by Richard Hatfield and Rebecca Cave, sound by Kiidra Duhault, and props by Alayna Hunchak.

A Doll’s House continues at the Walterdale Theatre until Saturday October 21st, 8 pm Tuesday-Saturday and 2 pm Sunday.  Same-day tickets are available at the door and advance tickets are through Tix on the Square.

Nextfest!

One of the events of an Edmonton June that I had missed in previous years is Nextfest, the celebration of emerging artists in various disciplines which used to be run out of the Roxy Theatre.  There is no Roxy right now, but Nextfest continues, with more events and performances than I’ll have time to catch.  High school performers (#NextNextfest) have a full schedule at the Mercury Theatre (former Azimuth/Living room).  Some things are along 124 Street.  And the mainstage performances are in the lower-level auditorium at Faculté St-Jean on 91 Street.

I’ve seen several mainstage shows.  Evolve was a set of short dance/movement pieces, solos and bigger ensembles.

Blackout was an hour of sketch comedy and improv. The pace was quick, the characters clever, and the inclusion of recent political events spot-on.  I liked it a lot.  It reminded me of the work of Hot Thespian Action, the troupe out of Winnipeg which was at Edmonton Fringe a few years ago.

Pinniped and Other Poems was a play written by Skye Hyndman and directed by Philip Geller, a lyrical indirect piece including flashback scenes, walrus mustaches, live goldfish named x0 and y0, an intriguing set making use of twine, rope, and translucent flats, and some effective and unusual stage business.  Alex Dawkins’ demeanour and costuming portrayed a mysterious woman from the protagonist’s past, while Connor Suart, Emily Howard, and Jake Tkaczyk all seemed to be presenting aspects of the main character.  Live music was provided by Vik Chu.  From a vocal production viewpoint I was impressed by how all the performers managed the dense text with clear articulation despite wearing what looked like straw and twine all over their jaws, and particularly how Jake Tkaczyk’s character managed to sound like an old man without losing volume or clarity.  If time permits I will definitely be watching this one again because I think there is more in the text than I picked up.

Shorts is a program of five short pieces.  I’m not sure if they’re all parts of longer works in development, but at least some of them are.  Louise Large and Andrew Dool each had solo pieces, both with unconventional treatments of fourth-wall conventions.  Kali Wells’s Forms of Communication was an entertaining escapade that started from a situation anyone might find himself or herself in, and then escalated.  It reminded me of some of the scenarios in Suburban Motel.  I also appreciated the value placed on hand-knitted socks by the characters!   Liam Salmon’s Un(known) Stories was a natural-sounding chat among three friends, exploring LGBT terminology and concepts, lived experience, and respectful disagreement.  Leif Ingebrigtsen’s Echoes of a Lost King was perhaps the most ambitious project, two songs and a scene from what seemed to be a fully designed original musical about a group of D & D players and their characters on quest, with Joleen Ballandine, Gabriel Richardson, Eva Foote, and Hunter Cardinal.   All four are strong performers and musicians, but in this short piece I noticed that the music was a particularly good showcase for Gabriel Richardson’s voice.

Desirée Leverenz’s Husk is playing in a space on 124 Street just south of 111 Avenue.  The space seems to be intended as some kind of semi-institutional residence, so it has good potential for site-specific work, with an intimate stage/risers room on one side, and the opportunity to wander through various small rooms and spaces on two floors.   The piece included a couple of full-ensemble scenes with cryptic story, movement, and sound exploration, along with a more experiential session in between where audience wandered among displays interacting with the performers as much as they chose.  Philip Geller’s and Morgan Grau’s interactions were particularly compelling, eliciting audience help or response; some of the others were more distant or diorama-like.  All seemed to be isolated, and to be embracing or struggling with some aspect of fluid and mess.  I think my favourite part of this piece was when I gradually became aware that what I thought was a completely comprehensible conversation among odd characters was actually a repetition of nonsensical phrases, imbued with actor intention as in some kind of Meisner class exercises.  (I did not actually notice this right away because I think I was assuming I hadn’t heard right and my brain was filling in more comprehensible narrative.)  Other performers in this piece were Roland Meseck, Emily Howard, Sophie Gareau-Brennan,  Stuart McDougall, Connor Suart, and a couple of others I didn’t know.

Nextfest continues until tomorrow, Sunday 14 June.

Starting the year off with a SHOUT!

Over the winter-solstice theatre dark nights I had intended to post my notes on everything I saw in December, but it didn’t seem to work that way.  I’ll work through the backlog as I can, even though the busier schedules of January and February mean that programs are piling up again.

SHOUT! is a 1960s musical revue produced by Round Barns Productions, which played at C103 in early January.  Kristen Finlay directed it, and Sally Hunt was the musical director.  During the show, five young women in England (Leslie Caffaro, Nicole English, Kristen Finlay, Erin Foster-O’Riordan, Monica Roberts) move through the years from 1962 to 1970, with songs, dancing, and glimpses of their lives in that era.  They’re called “The Red Girl”, “The Orange Girl”, “The Yellow Girl” and so on, after one of those magazine-article personality quizzes (voiceover by John Dolphin), and the quick lists of traits are turned into five distinct and attractive characters by the performers.

A magazine called Shout provided a framework moving through the show, with the characters reading articles about 1960s phenomena like Twiggy, the Beatles, and the sexual revolution.  John Dolphin’s voiceovers provided assorted magazine content, and the characters also wrote letters to “Gwendolyn Holmes” a women’s-magazine advice columnist of the era (voice by Elizabeth Marsh) who responded to most problems with suggestions like cheering oneself up by getting a new hairstyle.  Much of the advice and other magazine content was terrible from a 2015 point of view (the cigarettes diet, the asbestos dress).

The music was great, mostly songs I was familiar with.  I loved the “Coldfinger” parody of the James Bond theme, “I Only Want to Be With You”, and “Shout!”, and the “You’re My World/All I See is You” medley made me cry.  And there was enough character development arc under the mostly-lighthearted show to provide satisfying outcomes for the characters “I got pregnant!”, “I got sober”, and “I got Penelope!”  Especially the one who takes over for the advice columnist.

HONK! if you love family musicals

The Ugly Duckling is the Hans Christian Anderson tale of a misfit chick raised by ducks and made to feel inferior for being different, who then matures into a graceful beautiful swan and is welcomed by a flock of other swans.  Stories of happy resolution and appreciation for young people who don’t fit in have always been in demand, although the expectations of the story tropes have changed even within my memory, as, for example, some modern viewers find the bullying in the 1960s television special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” to be egregiously cruel, even with some happier resolutions at the end for the red-nosed reindeer, the dentist elf, the kind abominable snow monster, and other picked-on characters.

Honk! is a musical version of the story, with music by George Stiles and book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe, which debuted in England in 2003.  And I liked this version better than previous versions I’d encountered, partly because the audience and the ugly duckling (played here by Mathew Bittroff, appropriately awkward in mismatched socks and lopsided stance) could see right from the start that the mother duck (Kayla Nickel) cared about him and admired his unusually good swimming ability, and because even when he was lost, the device of overhearing a television appeal let him see that his mother still loved him and hadn’t given up.  During the performance I got wondering whether the happy ending would still have him flying off with the flock of swans, as in the original, and I was relieved to see that after he’s both discovered himself as a swan and found his duck family, he decides to stay on the lake with the ducks and with his swan sweetie Penny (Paula Humby).  It was also nice that after some initial jokes about Drake avoiding family responsibilities and not bonding with Ugly, he stays home to take care of the ducklings and the nest while his partner Ida goes searching for Ugly, and is happy to have him return.

This version of the story has an obvious villain outside of the sibling/community bullying: a Cat, played with feline grace and predatory instincts by David Johnston of The 11 O’Clock Number and Two One-Way Tickets’ The Full Monty.  A young audience member behind me was complaining with satisfaction at intermission that he or she Didn’t Like That Cat.   I found the analogy with human would-be predators equally disturbing.  The way that the Cat concentrated on the youth who was distanced from his family and discouraged him from checking in with his mother was very similar to the grooming and luring behaviour of a child molester portrayed by Jake Tkaczyk in his original piece Play Date at Red Deer College a few weeks ago.

Johnston’s feline mannerisms were readily identifiable and very funny, particularly the way he shot his claws and caressed his astonishing facial hair.  Elisa Benzer as Turkey, and Will Mitchell as Drake and Bulldog were also particularly impressive in capturing the essence of their characters’ species in posture and movement.

In the musical, once Ugly has been separated from his family and farmyard community by the Cat and after he escapes the cat, he spends a long time searching for home and encountering various other characters – a military formation of migratory geese, a couple of domesticated pets, a bullfrog and his chorus, and a mother and daughter swan – before being found by his mother and discovered to have molted into a recognizable swan.  This gave the story more structure, and also provided opportunities for some funny characters, puns, and song/dance numbers.   Most of the cast played two or three parts.  The duckling siblings were Laena Anderson, Rachel Kent, and Lindsay Phillips, in yellow bows and shirts.  Nicole English shifted posture, demeanour, and a few costume details to distinguish between Maureen (a moorhen friend of the mother duck), Lowbutt (a domesticated chicken), and Mother Swan.

The music for the show was provided by Erik Mortimer on keyboard.  (The small child behind me commented after intermission “He’s really good!”)  The songs were pleasant and catchy and the choreography fun to watch and suitable to the characters and species.  I had trouble discerning the words in one or two of the early songs, which was irritating because the words I could make out were very clever, and I’m not sure whether the problem was tempo or balance with the keyboard.  I particularly enjoyed Kayla Nickel’s singing voice.  I think the last thing I saw her in was MacEwan’s Spring Awakening, although I may have seen her in something since.

HONK is a production of Grindstone Theatre, the people who do The 11 O’Clock Number.  It’s playing at the PCL Studio space at the Arts Barns until April 26th.  Tickets are at Tix on the Square or at the door.