by Colin Thomas
New York theatre company Elevator Repair Service has announced that, in the spring of 2018, it will mount Everyone’s Fine with Virginia Woolf, a parody of Edward Albee’s classic Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Kate Scelsa wrote the new piece. And, according to the company’s Indiegogo campaign, in the new version, “no one is left unscathed by Martha’s feminist ambitions.” “Rubbing alcohol will be consumed,” the site goes on to say. “Imaginary pregnancies will be indulged, and gender constructs will be destroyed.”
Playwright Samuel Beckett’s estate, which is famously restrictive, is supporting artist Jess Thom, who will add scores of new words to the text of Beckett’s Not I.
Thom, who has Tourette syndrome, will perform Not I at the Edinburgh Fringe later this month. And, as folks who saw Thom’s perspective-bending Backstage in Biscuit Land at the PuSh Festival this year know, one of her tics is to say the word biscuit hundreds of times a day. How will that unstoppable rain of words coexist with the playwright’s pristine text? The Guardian has illuminating answers.
Speaking of illumination, Beckett decreed that, in Not I, the solo actor’s urgently communicating mouth should be the only thing the audience sees. Often, actors who play the role of Mouth are strapped into place so that the stage lighting can focus on their lips. But Thom also has pronounced physical tics: tying her down wouldn’t work. So her team has mounted a light in the hoody that’s part of her costume: rather than Thom staying still for the light, the light will move with her. “I’m following the stage directions,” Thom explains in this video, “but doing so in a way that works for my body… To achieve the same things and have equality of opportunity doesn’t mean that we have to do everything in the same way.”
Fifty years ago, on August 9, 1967, playwright Joe Orton’s lover Kenneth Halliwell bludgeoned the 34-year-old to death in their London apartment. Orton’s playwriting career only lasted three years, but produced influential works including Entertaining Mr. Sloane, Loot, and What the Butler Saw.
Like astrological influences, a library prank and homophobia shaped Orton’s trajectory.
For two years, Orton and Halliwell smuggled books out of the Islington Central Library and returned them—altered. The jacket blurb for a sedate Dorothy Sayers mystery suddenly included a reference to a seven-inch phallus, for instance. And the new cover of the romance novel Queen’s Favourite showed two shirtless men wrestling.
For their pains, both Orton and Halliwell received six months in jail, a harsh sentence, given the crime. Orton said later, “It was really because we were queer.” And statements made by Sidney Porrett, the Islington Borough Council legal clerk tasked with solving the library crimes, support that assertion. Referring to the men, he said, “They were a couple of darlings, make no mistake.” And, not content with their incarceration, he pursued damages, which put the couple’s mortgaged apartment in jeopardy. “I wanted to let them know that I was still governor in this matter,” Porrett said. “I was still that much on top… I left them financially pretty rocky.”
Orton’s jail time may have intensified his creative drive: the Roman candle of his career took off shortly after his release. But Halliwell slid into depression—and homicide.
Still rebellion has won out—albeit at a pace that rebellion would find intolerable. This summer, London will finally see its first uncensored production of Loot.
The annual question: How the heck do you choose among the scores of offerings at the Vancouver Fringe? (The Festival will burst onto the city September 7 to 17.)
Well, you can read reviews of shows that have been doing the circuit—but who are those critics anyway? If you don’t know a particular reviewer’s tastes and qualifications, their opinions mean nothing—unless you cross-reference it.
Here are a couple of offerings that intrigue me.
The text for Hyena Subpoena has received nominations from the League of Canadian Poets and the Quebec Writers’ Federation. You don’t come across those endorsements every day. And, writing on mooneyontheatre.com, Ilana Lucas is enthusiastic: “Hyena Subpoena fairly bristles with the joy of intricate language.”
Ain’t True & Uncle False sounds completely frickin’ weird, which is not a bad thing. Set in the Big Fib Trailer Park, it includes Siamese twins who were born in different years, but have since fused into a Venn diagram. CBC Manitoba says it’s hilarious. I have learned to be wary of Winnipeg reviewers—again, who are these people?—but the Orlando Sentinel loved this oddity, too.
Looking for local content? Try Six Fine Lines by Vancouver playwright Mack Gordon. The program blurb describes the collage-like show as “pop rocks for your head,” which is vague, but it quotes Colin Thomas as saying, “Gordon is a playwright worth taking seriously.” I know that guy—not well, but I trust him. Most of the time.
For extensive Fringe coverage, come on over to Vancouver Green Room on my blog, where I’ll be posting a whole slew of reviews on day one of the Vancouver Fringe.