Tag Archives: scott shpeley

Inspired silliness and spontaneous hilarity all over the Citadel.

Ronnie Burkett’s The Daisy Theatre is in the Club downstairs.

One Man, Two Guvnors is upstairs in the Shoctor.

And in between, Rapid Fire Theatre is at Ziedler Hall with two Theatresports shows every Friday, a Chimprov long-form improv show every Saturday at 10 pm, and next weekend also a public-workshops student show Thursday at 7:30 (I am going to be in this one, probably singing) and a Maestro elimination game Saturday night at 7:30.   Tickets for all Rapid Fire shows are available through EventBrite and at the door.

Ronnie Burkett’s Daisy Theatre  is returning after a long Citadel booking last year.  Some of the same puppet characters are in the show this year, but there are some new ones, and all new stories with the old ones, and apparently different things happen every night.  I saw it once last year and enjoyed it, but I thought this year’s show was even better.   Mrs. Edna Rural is still one of my favourites.  This year’s bits with Schnitzel, the poignant little creature who wishes for wings, were not as disturbing to me as last year’s (which reminded me of Robertson Davies’ World of Wonders), and they were still charming, especially watching Schnitzel climb the curtains.  As last year, Ronnie Burkett includes various audience members or takes amusing liberties with them, and he also makes lots of jokes about local establishments and politics.  I wish I had time to see it again.

One Man, Two Guvnors had its first preview tonight.  It had a long cast list with many familiar names and faces, John Ullyatt, Lisa Norton, Julien Arnold, Jesse Gervais, Cole Humeny, Louise Lambert, Orville Charles Cameron, Mat Busby, Andrew Macdonald-Smith, and all of the Be Arthurs.  Performers I hadn’t seen before were Jill Agopsowicz as the young romantic lead Pauline and Glenn Nelson as Harry Dangle the lawyer (of the firm Dangle, Berry, and Bush).  Bob Baker was the director, and the script was written by Richard Bean based on Carlo Goldoni’s 18th century comedy The Servant of Two Masters.  John Ullyatt is the main character Francis Henshall, the quick-talking easily-confused small-time crook who starts the show so broke that he hasn’t eaten, and desperate for money he hires himself out to two different people, the gangster Roscoe  – who turns out to be Roscoe’s twin sister Rachel in disguise, Lisa Norton –  and the higher-class criminal Stanley Stubbers (Jesse Gervais).  Assorted wacky hijinks ensue, as Francis tries to get some food and then the affections of the accountant Dolly (Louise Lambert), various other romances play out, prison-trained chef Lloyd manages a “pub with food” (apparently a novelty in 1963 Brighton) with the help of servers Alfie (Andrew Macdonald-Smith who should probably have a massage therapist or physiotherapist lined up for the run of the show) and Gareth (Mat Busby), and criminal mastermind Charlie The Duck (Julien Arnold) is involved in some financial negotiations with his solicitor Harry Dangle that I never did quite follow, but it didn’t matter.  There was slapstick, physical comedy, bad puns, lots of asides to the audience, musical interludes by the Be Arthurs playing as The Craze (Ryan Parker, Scott Shpeley, Bob Rasko, Sheldon Elter), and other funny business.  The pace did not drag at all and although it was a fairly long show I wasn’t restless, I was just giggling all the way through.  It was a little tiresome that Pauline’s defining character trait was a cluelessness or stupidity, but there was good contrast with Louise Lambert’s character Dolly, a 1963 model of feminist sass and control of her sexuality reminiscent of Joan on Mad Men, and with Lisa Norton’s character Rachel, who disguises herself as her brother and tracks down her missing lover (hence leading to a priceless reunion scene with a glimpse of two characters making out in matching boxer shorts and gartered socks.)  The script also had lots of scope for ridiculousness in male characters, notably Cole Humeny as Alan (Orlando) Dangle, would-be actor in black turtleneck and leather and overdramatic anguish.   This might be the best pure comedy I have seen on the Shoctor stage.  I liked it better than Make Mine Love and possibly better than Spamalot.


The Daisy Theatre runs in the Club until November 2nd.  One Man, Two Guvnors runs in the Shoctor until November 16th.  Tickets to both are available through the Citadel website.

A dream within a dream: Nevermore

The Westbury Theatre was sold out.  The Arts Barns lobby was filled with a queue folding back on itself like a pack of ramen noodles.  Lots of familiar faces from the Edmonton theatre scene and lots of twitter buzz reinforced what I’d heard: the opening night of the new Catalyst Theatre production of Jonathan Christenson’s Nevermore was a big deal.

Nevermore recounts the life story of Edgar Allan Poe, the American nineteenth-century writer of the creepy and suspenseful.  Compared to The Soul Collector,  a Christenson / Catalyst production I saw last spring, the narrative of Nevermore is direct and almost completely linear.  But it’s still a supremely weird show, set in a world where nothing is normal.  (Nothing is right-angled either!)  It was also interesting to view this show recalling Emily Winter’s portrayal of Poe in last summer’s Fringe hit Poe and Mathews.

Most of the story is told by one of the narrators speaking directly to the audience in rhyme, while the characters in that part of the story interact physically and sing together.  This works better than you might expect, conveying a literary and distanced mood but showing the affection and awkwardness among the flawed individual characters.

Scott Shpeley plays Edgar, from about age 8 to his death at 40.  He does the whole show in the same odd black and white costume and makeup, but his motions and postures show obvious changes from child to adolescent and young man to older man.   His appealing clear tenor voice works well for the character at all ages.   As a child, he frequently looked small, fearful, and pitiable, trembling all over.  In one of the glimpses of happiness, when he falls in love with his young cousin (Beth Graham), his face is illuminated by joy.  And in one of the moments of anguish he lifts a tear-streaked face to the audience.

The other six actors in the ensemble play several parts each, with various additions to hair or costume.  Garett Ross and Vanessa Sabourin are Edgar’s ill-fated parents (with the portrayal of his moody actress mother being especially poignant), and Gaelan Beatty and Beth Graham his siblings.  Ryan Parker’s characters include a Paul-Lynde-ish portrayal of the biographer Rufus Griswold.  Shannon Blanchet was Elvira Royster, a character seen as a teenager and again as a widow.  One of the best portrayals was Beth Graham as Fanny Allan, Edgar’s foster mother, trying to win over the orphaned boy despite her surly merchant husband (Garett Ross) and struggling with despair.

The visual designs for this production were fascinating and spare, consistent with what I understand of the Catalyst Theatre aesthetic.  Bretta Gerecke is credited as scenographer and resident designer for the company.  I was intrigued and then captivated.  All the costumes are black and white, twisted impressions of nineteenth century dress.  Black boots are made noticeable with white accents.  Rigid wires hint at hoop skirts and frock coats.  Harsh monochrome lights turn costume elements reddish or bluish.  Hats and hairdos are odd and extreme, from punkish spikes to one of the women’s updos looking very much like a stalk of Brussels sprouts.   Human and non-human characters with long mis-shapen claw-hands reminded me of similar imagery in The Soul Collector.   I loved the rhomboid oversized notebooks and asymmetric undersized trunks.   Many characters adopted odd hand and body positions like twisted sculptures.

Nevermore is playing at the Westbury Theatre until the afternoon of Sunday March 2nd.  If you like going to weird theatre, unconventional musicals, or shows that everyone in Edmonton will be referring to for years, then you should make time in your schedule for this.  You can get tickets at Tix on the Square.  There are also some $10 youth tickets available at the door for each performance.