The theatre program at NextFest’s 19th incarnation spans a deconstruction of our love of technology, a boy-meets-girl-meets-philosophical-breakdown romp, a tale of jaded Francophone youth, a spread of short works, and more. And, below you’ll find Vue’s reviews of everything we managed to see, as well as the remaining show times (if any), with two exceptions: due to a cancelled performance, we didn’t manage to see A Madhouse Dramedy before deadline, and the folk-opera The Earl has a lone show on Nextfest’s closing Sunday. So keep those shows in mind as well. If you’re looking for a primer on what our emerging theatrical talent is up to, look no further.
Reviews by Mel Priestley.
Thu, Jun 12 (6 pm)
Sat, Jun 14 (8 pm)
Sun, Jun 15 (6:30 pm)
Simultaneously a deconstruction of a TEDx talk and modern society’s dependence on/addiction to technology, DUGx pokes fun at this hugely popular series of conferences as well as our overwhelming need to incessantly check our cell phones. Performer/creator Doug Hoyer has obviously seen enough TEDx talks to have the form down pat, and can therefore implement and dissect all of the usual conventions: infotainment, building rapport with the audience and then preying on that trust, live interviews, squabbling pundits and awkward PowerPoint slides with Comic Sans bullet points. The subject of this particular talk is the modern human, “homo internetus” and Hoyer wittily plays the straight man while gleefully drawing ridiculous (albeit often accurate) conclusions and connections about our technologically dependent existences. Some parts lag and overall it feels a wee bit protracted (not unlike many TEDx talks) but overall this is a clever, funny example of homage fused with editorial.
La Nuit, La Raison Dort
La Cité Francophone
It feels more like entering a night club than a theatre: the audience shuffles down two flights of stairs through thumping dance music and whooping, glowstick-adorned revellers, before exchanging their drink tickets (provided at the door) for a beer and settling into the cabaret-style seating. A few minutes of this and the play begins in earnest: a tale of four young francophones meeting abroad at an Athens club and embarking on a nocturnal adventure that takes a dark turn. The play is mainly in French, but anglophones can follow the carefully placed English lines. The story is pretty straightforward, the inventive opening belying a script that fits right alongside typical angsty tales of jaded, aimless youth, to the point that it brushes upon cliché. Its final affirmations are appropriate, though not particularly revelatory, and the young cast has some more work to make the audience invested in their characters.
Prue & Ambrose
Fri, Jun 13 (9 pm)
This peculiar little play feels like two halves of two very different conversations. He’s in the standard boy-meets-quirky-girl love story, while she’s in the midst of some kind of philosophical breakdown. The play’s structure reflects this division: the first part is an extended scene of her emptying—no, flinging—the contents of her home into the yard while a voice-over delves into her chaotic thoughts. Then he bursts in and the play shifts into a dialogue, though one in which neither of them make much headway towards understanding the other. There’s a lot of interesting ideas tossed around in both the script and the play’s physicality, and there’s humour alongside the frustration of witnessing the sheer absurdity of this constant circular discourse, but it also leaves one feeling bemused and wondering at the purpose behind this verbal carousel.
A Series of Shorts
Fri, Jun 13 (7:30 pm)
This set of four very different short plays demonstrates the versatility emerging in Edmonton’s younger theatre crowd. The first juxtaposes a young woman’s disquieting experiences in Africa against two young men’s grim discovery in the woods; it’s an engaging theatrical device that makes some rather obvious (though valid) statements on the human condition. The second is much lighter, a humorous defence against a death sentence (for the crime of “lo-zer-dom”) by an aimless 20-something. While funny, the script’s liberal use of pop-culture references make it feel already a bit dated. The third piece is a whimsical, stardust-sprinkled meditation on life in the universe, which presents some sweet though not particularly daring observations. The last is a one-man movement-based piece involving the inventive manipulation of two deck chairs while recounting a lovely, bittersweet tale of familial love.
This is the Kind of Animal I Am
Sun, Jun 15 (3:30 pm)
Weaving a deeply personal story of a woman facing her past with wry observation and a touch of mythology, this is an extended look at the violence facing girls and women. But it’s far from an “issues” play, taking twists and turns that are surprising, alarming and downright horrifying in turn. The show’s sense of dread builds in a series of jolts as we piece together exactly what’s going on, and Holly Cinnamon is a powerhouse who unflinchingly shoulders the script’s weight. Her movements are mesmerizing and her use of both space and props is inventive; she shows just how versatile—and symbolic—a simple article of clothing can be.
It’s not flawless: the sound levels need to be tweaked and the fuzzy projections could be sharpened; the script feels occasionally disjointed and the flow isn’t always smooth. Nonetheless this is a fierce, unapologetic stare into very dark territory, absolutely arresting for its raw, brutal honesty.
Until Sun, Jun 15