Just came back from seeing Théâtre Français’ English edition of The [Post] Mistress at CanStage, and it was just wonderful. Beautiful, uplifting, lively, an astounding job by the sole actor on stage, who managed to captivate a sold out crowd for two and a half hours with her endearing charm, her juicy gossip and her killer pipes. The show was in a cabaret style, with the lead accompanied throughout by the playwright, Tomson Highway, on piano, and Marcus Ali on sax. Just fantastic.
There’s one number in there that just had me in stitches, a piece in which the empassioned lead sings about a sexy Argentinian man, Ariel Juan Eduardo Javier Manuel Rodrigo etc etc at which point I died laughing, since I know all too well a man who has a grand total of six given names. Spot on.
I had the pleasure of chatting briefly with Tomson before the show, and was very touched by his gentleness, his kindness and his wonderfully refreshing enthusiasm. He grabbed my hand, spoke of travels to Zimbabwe, and smiled a charmed smile before dashing off to ready himself for the show. A beautiful soul, with a beautiful gift that he just keeps on sharing. I love people like that.
Theatre lovers living on a dime take heed – Factory Theatre has launched their Toonie Tuesday preview extravaganza. Now there’s seriously no excuse to not go and enjoy these amazing Canadian productions.
Last night Mom and I saw David Yee’s “Acquiesce”, a play about a young man who must go and bury the father he barely knew in Hong Kong, and all the emotional turmoil that the experience brings up. I really enjoyed the performances, and for Mom and I it was good catharsis, as it deals with issues of abuse (Mom’s father, though a “good man”, was physically and verbally abusive to his family), the anger that comes from abandonment (I know my dad, but I don’t know my dad. I’ve seen him a handful of times in my life. My memories of him include a pizza and ice cream trip when I was a child and him being really angry at me for putting on nail polish before falling asleep and trying to kill everyone in the house with poisonous vapours) and the frictions that arise from straddling two vastly different cultures your entire life.
I have to give a giant thumbs up to the crew, who put together a fantastic modern, functional set, eerie musical interludes and terrific props and effects. Wonderfully done.
Well if this isn’t the most exciting news since I learned that you can buy Oreo cookies without the filling, I don’t know what is – admission to Canada’s National Parks will be free in 2017 to commemorate Canada’s 150th anniversary. That’s pretty amazing, and a great reason to pack up your car, make some PB&J sammies, and hit the road to discover all the beauty that this country has to offer.
I will be celebrating the occasion with a bunch of amazing people and amazing Canadian geography. Because what is Canada if not a spectacularly beautiful place?
We had the pleasure of attending the opening night of Skylight at the Berkeley Theatre last night, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It’s always great to see people who have been somehow involved in the production sitting in the audience, fidgeting nervously, anxiously awaiting the audience’s reaction and getting the pleasure of witnessing the fruits of their labour in full bloom. As usual, the Berkeley reception was a glorious, classy affair, with staffers and volunteers ensuring that every detail was tended to.
I love being exposed to new plays (well, new to me!) and novel techniques when I see a show. In this case, it was the fact that the main character cooked an entire meal onstage in real-time that impressed me (I was looking to see if certain elements were precooked, and couldn’t tell, to be honest) and completely embroiled me in the story. The kitchen is definitely the heart of my home and many an emotion peeks out as vegetables are chopped, plus it’s such an intimate act that I’m not sure if the characters’ closeness and comfort with each other could easily have been portrayed otherwise. It was a lovely choice – whether dictated by playwright or chosen by production team – but I applaud it vehemently.
And so, it seems, did Amy Pataki.
Saw a beautiful play at Factory Theatre last night, Trey Anthony’s “How Black Mothers Say I Love You”. It was amazing to see the turnout – I’m pretty certain that the entire run is sold out. I watched the audience as they poured into the theatre, excited and smiling and hugging each other in greeting. There was a good energy in the hall. I saw three and four generations of women coming in together, young girls holding their mom’s hands, with grandma close by, and great grandma making her way not far behind. The perfect Mother’s Day gift. It made me feel really happy to somehow be a part of it. As the play unfolded, I watched these women’s faces illuminated by the stage lights as they nodded vigorously in agreement during many scenes, laughed aloud at others, shook their heads in frustration at others. I’m not sure if I’ve seen a play resonate so strongly with the audience in a long time. People are often so reserved in theatres, you watch them and are not sure sometimes if anything really connects, and this audience was very different.
The subject matter is in part about what happens when mothers leave their children behind as they seek a better life for their families elsewhere, and how children view that perceived abandonment as they grow up. It’s difficult territory, but one that I could relate to, our family having gone through the same journey as mom ran away from the despair and “greyness” (as she always called it) of freshly post-communist Poland, leaving me in the care of others. I didn’t feel the same anger towards my mom as the protagonist in this play did, but I was definitely conflicted and struggled with self-worth. Of course understanding her choices was at times difficult, as was trying to belong to a culture that I often felt outside of. My dark era came when a friend referred to me as a “f*cking immigrant” at a dinner party, prompting a withdrawal from the life that I had built here and a reassessment of whom and what I value in life. At the root of it for me, all analysis aside, is the peace that comes when you simply love the people in your life who have tried their best with the cards life dealt them, and leave desires of perfectionism behind. I look at the people around me who gently nudge and support me, and I thank my stars for them, and love them dearly. I don’t say it enough, but I do.
Playing now until March 13th at the Factory, this beautifully uncluttered production of David French’s play left me in tears. Kawa Ada (whom I’ve already encountered this season in Bombay Black) is just breathtaking, as is his partner, the wonderful Mayko Nguyen, plus a remarkable supporting musical role by Ania Soul. Run folks. Run. The Globe and Mail reviewer loved it so much he bought himself a second ticket.
I have a serious attachment to my bicycle. I’ve never been particularly aware of it, but I’ve been in London for a month now and I’ve finally understood what that pang in my heart is about. Have you ever seen a kid staring at you wide eyed and licking their lips absently as you eat an ice cream cone near them? That’s how I stare at cyclists. Like a desert hiker without water.
I have the same attachment to my bicycle that I think people have to their pets. I love it without reservation for it has never led me astray. It’s not like that boy that you love madly but he’s always let you down so you’ll never really trust him. It’s like the one who’s never let you down so you love him even more.
It’s a recurring symbol of my life. My mom’s husband taught me how to ride a bike when I was 6, it was pink and had one of those wooden sticks in the back so that he could control it and keep me from knocking my teeth in. He might as well have taught me how to fly. Once I mastered stickless tricks, I bolted over to my friend’s house and got the crap kicked out of me by grandma when I came home long after dark because I lost track of time.
When I met a boy at a young urban dinner party eight years ago, he asked me out for a bike ride. I was in my mid-twenties, and surrounded by peers who drove BMWs and drank martinis and wore really high Jimmy Choo’s and talked about investment and mortgages and were super serious and super mature. I was none of these things. When he checked my tires for air and filled them up without hesitation, I knew I had met a kindred spirit.
And then, well, Amsterdam. Then there’s that.
I’m a kid. I think I know now that I always will be. But that little shit who got her wings at 6 in a crummy concrete Gdansk playground learned how to breeze through the toughest of times on two wheels that day. And that stays.
1. Buildings have names. You might work for Starbucks, but your office will be in Commander House or Senator House or something similar. How lovely.
2. People vape here. A lot. I never understood where the market was for these things since I never really encountered them in Amsterdam or Toronto. Now I know.
3. When I’m coming home from work at 6 pm or whatever, newsboys are handing out the London Evening Standard Post on every busy corner. It’s adorable.
4. Everybody seems to eat porridge for breakfast, and it’s offered as ubiquitously in eateries as donuts in Canada.
5. Hawksmoor has a full fat old fashioned that will make you think you’ve died and gone to heaven
6. You’ll get the best Pakistani meal at Tayyabs and pay so little that you’ll quicken your step on the way out, assuming that they’ve made an error and will getcha
7. Hackney Broadway Market is lovely.
8. The London buses are far superior in every way to the under- and over-ground
9. The Brick Lane Beigel House will feed you for a quid. No joke. You’ll be a little scared of the owner, who’s super no-fuss and will bark for your order and practically whip it at you from across the counter, but you’ll instantly forgive her ‘cuz she’ll call you “Lovey”
10. I reckon only 10% of people in London are British. Everyone is from everywhere.
11. If you want to go to Rennie Scott’s you’d dang better reserve ahead. It’s sold out every single time I try.
Ninja Tune is probably my favourite label, responsible for keeping me in my bubble of happiness during my every day from the 90s onwards. Herbalizer, Mr Scruff, Cinematic Orchestra, Bonobo, Andreya Triana and most recently Yppah, and countless other fantastic, moody, meticulous artists have been signed by them. The office is not too far from where I am, so I went for a wander. Unassuming and without signage, passersby looked at me quizzically as I stood there smiling at it, thanking it for the years of aural medication.
And on the way back, passed the Ministry of Sound. Double whammy!