Tag Archives: richard lee

Michael Healey’s Proud

Tonight I saw a preview of theatre no. 6’s presentation of Proud.  Director Ian Leung said ahead of time that there might be technical glitches, but I didn’t notice any.   Parking around La Cité Francophone was unusually challenging, probably due to the Alberta NDP leadership debate taking place across the street at Faculté St. Jean, and afterwards I found that a cheering thought.

Proud is a story about politicians and about some parts of the political process, and about beliefs and emotions and what kind of government people want.  I hated some of what I saw on stage because I think it might be true and I don’t want it to be, and I loved how they showed it. The premise of the story started by imagining that the federal election of 2011 had generated a much larger majority for the Conservatives, if they had won seats all over Quebec by very slim margins over the NDP.  (That this is completely feasible to imagine is thoroughly depressing in itself.  See Fair Vote Canada for more.)   As the Prime Minister says addressing his newly expanded caucus, “We have broad but thin support.  If this was ice, I couldn’t recommend we play shinny on it.”   There’s a funny early scene where the Prime Minister and his Chief of Staff are examining a large seating chart of the House of Commons trying to plan who should sit where.  All one side and about half the other side are coded Conservative-blue.  There are 28 orange cards and 25 red ones, and I couldn’t be sure but I think then 4 BQ baby-blue and one green one.  That wasn’t even the point of the scene, just a fun detail I got distracted by.  The point of it was more to show the Prime Minister being petty and demanding about not wanting certain caucus members to be in his line of sight because he held grudges, and his Chief of Staff trying to find solutions that would keep his boss happy and not make any other problems.

Dave Horak was a perfect Chief of Staff, down to the low voice and the way he expected to fall on his metaphorical sword.  Brian Dooley was disturbingly good as a non-ideological Prime Minister who doesn’t make eye contact.  And Melissa Thingelstad was — I think this is my favourite role that I have seen her in so far.  She played a rookie MP from Quebec, a single mother who had been managing a St-Hubert Barbecue (cultural note: that’s a Quebec chain much like Swiss Chalet only with tarte au sucre.)   Her character had a wonderful mix of ferociousness and naiveté, sexuality and practicality and honesty and pragmatic ambition in which the Prime Minister seemed to have met his match.  “Why do you insist on mis-underestimating me?” she asked at one point.   When her character first appeared, I worried that she was going to be used as a sort of sexist shortcut and comic foil, making fun of young women in general and of the 2011-era rookie NDP MPs from Quebec like Ruth-Ellen Brossard.  But she got more interesting.

Richard Lee Hsi (formerly billed as Richard Lee, last seen in the Toy Guns Dance Theatre shows at the Fringe and in the feature film Rock Paper Dice Enter) had a small role as a character from the future being interviewed about the events of the play and about his own political aspirations.   His interview/monologue alluded to some very discouraging outcomes that would follow easily from the present-day of the play, which is not so different from our own, (a powerless consolidated Left and the Conservatives with a longest-serving Prime Minister very similar to Harper), but also gave the audiences some hopeful prospect in the way he spoke about his own ideals and ambitions.

On my way home from work, before I went to the performance, I heard a CBC Radio interview with David Moscrop, a doctoral candidate in political science at UBC.  His research focuses on the way people choose how to vote with their emotions rather than their reasoning.  This was echoed in the play, in which the Prime Minister and his Chief of Staff explain to the new MP that they address people’s feelings rather than their beliefs.

Ian Leung’s Director’s Note in the program says “save all that heavy stuff for after.  Tonight, it’s a comedy.  Enjoy!”

I did enjoy it.  I’m not sure it’s a comedy though.  I didn’t think the British TV series “House of Cards” was a comedy either.  (I haven’t seen the Netflix one with Kevin Spacey.)   I guffawed several times, and I also squirmed in my seat and winced quite a bit.  I wished it wasn’t quite so credible, but at the same time I was enthralled by the ways it was.

Proud is playing at L’Unithéâtre, La Cité Francophone, until October 19th.  Tickets are at, of course, Tix on the Square.

Fringe Holdovers 2014

There were several held-over shows that I hadn’t seen, but I had other commitments midweek, so I went to three shows on the holdover weekend.  The Westbury lobby fills up fast with people who were too busy during the Fringe to see everything they wanted.  Nobody’s wearing Artist or Volunteer badges any more, but probably a lot of them were last week.  I should mention that a few volunteers and staff are still around making things run smoothly at the box office, concession, and lobby-filling ramen-noodle-block of a queue, and I’m always in awe of them.

My companion and I saw Mike Delamont’s solo show God is a Scottish Drag Queen II, and the two dance shows of Jake Hastey’s Toy Guns Dance Theatre.

It was my first time seeing Mike Delamont perform.  His persona wore a “lady’s power suit”, a floral two-piece with wrap blouse, with bare feet and a sensible bobbed haircut.  This was not really what I picture when I hear “drag queen”, but it fit the character, and made me think vaguely of photos of Queen Elizabeth visiting Scotland.   I kept forgetting that he was supposedly speaking as God, because he was just making funny observations as a person.  And I actually have no idea why he was in drag, or whether his persona was supposed to be male, female, or not conventionally gendered.  Maybe that was covered in his original show, and it wasn’t very distracting either.  His performance had a few improvised bits and responses to audience questions or reactions, but mostly he went through a list of several topics that people had asked to hear more about after his previous show – mostly stuff about Christianity and Biblical stories.  I appreciated the deft way he acknowledged a suggestion to talk about pedophile priests by stating immediately that sexual abuse is not funny.  Apparently he plans to return to Edmonton with a third show, for which people can submit more suggestions and questions on line.

The two dance shows were Red Wine, French Toast, and the Best Sex You’ve Ever Had, on the Friday night, with a cast of six (David Clennin, Robert Halley, Dylan Parsons, Tia Kushniruk, Amber Bisonnette, and Richelle Thoreson), and Propylene Glycol, Maltodextrin, Retinol Palmitate, and Other Words I Don’t Understand Like Love on the Saturday, with eleven dancers (most of the above plus Richard Lee, Dario Charles, Cynthia Hicks, Katie McGuigan-Scott, Jemma Robinson, Valerie Rodriguez) , an opera singer (Elizabeth Raycroft), and an occasional narrator (Christine Lesiak).  I enjoyed both of them and I will make a point of watching for more productions from this company.  People I met during Fringe who had seen one or the other described them as “the one with a scene of eating cake” (Red Wine) – it was surprisingly amusing to watch the cast members all eat cake in different ways, especially Tia Kushniruk – and “the one with the pillows” (Propylene Glycol).  In both shows, I was immediately captivated by the overwhelming playfulness of the performers and the choreography.  I also loved the approach to sexuality seen in many of the pieces, joyful and open and not limited to exclusive opposite-sex pairs.  I was impressed by the athletic and evocative dance skill of Robert Halley and Richelle Thoreson, and by the distractingly-flirtatious stage presence of Dylan Parsons.  I don’t really see how the titles fit or distinguish the work, and I noticed that the Propylene Glycol show actually mentioned both red wine and French toast.  But that didn’t bother me.

Rock Paper Dice Enter – the movie

I’m reporting on some not-quite-so-ephemeral entertainment this week, with the web tv series Lizard at Home the other day and now a cinematic-release feature movie.

I’m not sure why I hadn’t heard of Rock Paper Dice Enter before today – probably I wasn’t paying attention.  A friend mentioned that he’d been to the Canadian premiere last night because he’d participated in the crowdfunding initiative, and that it had lots of local content.  It sounded interesting so I went today.

The story was a bit confusing.  Some of it ends up explained satisfyingly at the end, but I felt like maybe there was more I was supposed to figure out and didn’t.  Not just plot threads but some of the philosophical theme points.  (People complain about everything being obvious and overdone in typical Hollywood movies, but I was left wishing this one was a little bit more obvious.)   Some criminals (or are they?) are threatening (or negotiating with?) a crisis-management team of city officials.  The criminals don’t all have the same motives and information.  One of the strengths of the script, direction, and acting is that the crowd of eleven city officials was quickly shown to have several credibly distinct characters, including many who were female and/or non-white.

The local content included lots of Edmonton skylines and streetscapes and LRT station chase scenes, as well as a few other locales that I thought I should be able to place and wasn’t, quite.  I enjoyed recognising some of the views, especially since they were filmed in a way that didn’t draw attention to the details, with Blade-Runner-ish lighting – not like the hyper-detailed views of Toronto streetcars on TV shows like Being Erica and Flashpoint.

The filmmakers are Kash Gauni, who wrote the original story and who plays Roman in the film, and director Shreela Chakrabartty.   Other actors include Richard Lee (U of A acting graduate who has a strong presence in the Alberta dance community, and whom I think I first saw on stage singing in Joel Crichton’s song cycle Twenty-Five at Fringe 2011), Alyson Dicey and Chris W Cook (both frequent performers in local professional theatre), Dave Wolkowski who I saw recently on stage at the Walterdale Theatre in Starless, and a Ben Sures (who may or may not be Ben Sures the folk musician).  I did not recognise any of the other actors’ names.  I thought Richard Lee’s portrayal was one of the more interesting, along with Ojas Joshi’s computer analyst Kamran.  Georgette Starko’s public official Kim Puzzo had a distractingly flat affect and monotone voice, without enough on-screen character development to explain that.

Rock Paper Dice Enter is playing at the Landmark Cinemas 10 Clareview Edmonton until Thursday June 12th.    Their address is not on their website and Google maps is no help until you figure out that the cinema was an Empire property until recently.  It’s also playing on one screen in Calgary and one in Toronto, and it opened across India in February.

As a casual filmgoer rather than a skilled observer, I thought the production values were fine, and I liked the music.  The pace was fast enough for the genre.  The movie was quite short (about 80 minutes).   I wondered if a slightly longer version would have given me more satisfying explanations and explored the characters a bit more.