The Slamming Door Artist Collective, Jericho Arts Centre, Until May 19th
My Two Pence
By Liz Gloucester
I hope that the audience on the evening I went to watch The Sea was an anomaly in its size. If not, I will stake my reputation on stating that while mighty (one hopes), it is a travesty that there were so few of us in the house to witness this brilliant and engaging spectacle. Time and time again, I attend shows of highly talented independent companies in Vancouver, who are putting on rarely seen works, showcasing exciting performances by professional actors, whom they
respect enough to pay; And they only pull small audiences. Meanwhile the masses, (amongst which I myself am included) flock to mediocre performances of the same play or musical that another company has done the season before.
The Sea is an exploration of the unjust class system, of grief, of the folly of society and the logic of the 'madman'. By setting his play sixty or so years before it was written, Edward Bond ensures that hindsight gifts added gravitas to future suppositions, whether they be the portents of the War we know ensued, or the fear of alien invasion. Drunken hermit Evens says that quite apart from visitors from outer space, it is we that are becoming the strangers to our own world. With
the domination of technology and human beings' slow creep away from the natural world this statement seems fearfully accurate today.
Please, please, please choose to spend your hard-earned dollars supporting a company like 'The Slamming Door Artist Collective'. While this production is by no means flawless; the delicacy on every single level is remarkable. The creative directors have come together so beautifully to invoke the atmosphere of the seaside; from the sumptuous mast of a ship leaning 'Pisa-like' behind the thrust designed by Sandy Margaret, to Matthew MacDonald-Bain's clever sound
design, and the intricate Edwardian outfits by Cheyenne Mabberley and Chantal Short. The costume design in particular blew me away, with stunning seaside detail woven into the fabrics and accessories; seashells, fishing nets and floats; rosettes of barnacles and sea lichen stitched into the gentlemen's suits.
And Vancouver, please, please, please choose to support actors who portray their characters so truthfully that they can distort them into the most ridiculous and entertaining caricatures. Theatre is not film. I do not want to watch highly realistic and dull people wandering across a stage for two hours. I am here to be entertained; and The Sea had me in stitches from start to finish. Raes Calvert impressed playing two very different characters; the slumped, shuffling and
grunting Carter - hilarious both during scenes and scene changes; and then almost unrecognisable as the Vicar with his fabulous bobbed hair and chant-like verbiage. The women in this production were outstanding; Genevieve Fleming's Mrs. Rafi exuded pomposity and derision, Elizabeth Kirkland opened the window for the audience to sympathise with the plight of her wild and unstable Mr. Hatch; and Melissa Oei's face was just... perfect. While I respect that it is hard to fight for equality as a straight player in a spectacle of clowns; I wish more had been made of Dylan Floyde's Willy – it was a
little bland against the backdrop of madness.
In closing; I think I've begged enough. I am in no way affiliated with any persons here mentioned. I just want to continue seeing theatre like this. This will only happen if we support it.
My Two Cents
By Emma Rossland
The Slamming Door Artist Collective’s production of The Sea, by Edward Bond, was simply put, a great show. Set in the early 1900s in a British seaside village, the action starts with a stormy night during which, a boat capsizes and someone is drowned. The rest of the action takes place as the inhabitants of the village deal with the aftermath in their own eccentric way. The show is at times hilariously ridiculous, but also introduces some interesting and relevant themes.
The show is so well put together and I only wish that there were more bums in seats. It’s exceedingly sad when a theatre company, especially one that actually pays the artists involved, puts on an outstanding production but doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. I can only hope that the night I went to was an anomaly, and that in fact they get the full audiences they deserve. That being said, despite being a small audience the show was so entertaining that the audience seemed more than willing to participate.
The entertainment begins with the opening announcements, which were sung by the actors. This creative take on the standard “turn off your phone (etc.)” announcements foreshadows the level of entertainment the audience can expect from the show. It’s not the only singing, there are also a couple of hymns in the play, the lyrics of which are on the back of the program, encouraging the audience to participate.
Fitting the Edwardian time period, the costumes are beautifully designed. They are ingeniously and subtly accented with bits of the sea. Whether it’s seaweed creeping up the back of a vest or a bonnet with seashells clinging to it, the accents are simple but add another dimension to the costumes.
The set is simple, but effective. With a wooden dock crossing the middle of the stage and a black sail taking up most of the background, the set alters slightly from scene to scene with smaller set pieces indicating different locations. The scene changes are nearly as entertaining as the show itself, incorporating hilarious and ridiculous moments from the characters in the play.
The sound of the sea is present throughout the play, sometimes louder for effect, constantly reminding the audience of its presence. Other sounds created by the actors, add to the atmosphere. The bell on the door of the draper’s shop, which chimes every time a character enters or exits the store, is rung by an actor sitting to the side of the action. An old wind machine, placed on stage, is hand cranked by one of the actors whilst the characters stand at the edge of a cliff. It’s little details like these that make the show magic.
The acting is, for the most part, superb. Mrs. Rafi (Genevieve Fleming) Mrs Tilehouse (Melissa Oei) lead the cast with their hilarious caricatures. Fleming, gives a ridiculous rendition of a commanding woman, who is accustomed to the town obeying her every whim, a satirical version of Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey. Oei’s facial expressions bring hilarity to her character as she draws the attention of the audience, even when in the background. Other notable performances were Rae Calvert and Cheyenne Mabberley. Playing double roles Calvert and Mabberly switched seamlessly between their characters, even managing ridiculously fast costume changes with barely a scene to transition from one character to another. The only performance that wasn’t quite up to the snuff was that of Willy Carson (Dylan Floyde). It can be difficult when playing one of the only “straight” characters, surrounded by caricatures, to make a role interesting. Unfortunately, Floyde’s performance was drowned out by the hilarity of the performers around him.
As I said before, it’s a pity when an excellent show doesn’t get the audience it deserves. Certain themes still relevant today, such as the discord between the rich and poor, oppressor versus oppressed, the structure of our society which can drive people to madness, are thinly veiled by the comedy. This relation between absurdity and the truth make the play both entertaining and enlightening. Slamming Door Artist Collective’s production of The Sea shows all of this in a production as unusual as its characters, so hurry up and go because they definitely deserve it!