Arts & Culture

Undercurrents under way with Elephant Girls | Dance & theatre picks for February

This year’s Undercurrents Festival promises the best in original theatre created by local and visiting artists alike. Along with The Elephant Girls (see below), hot tickets include Tomorrow’s Child, a unique and immersive audio experience by Calgary’s Ghost River Theatre, and Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera, a high-energy rhymed parody about two brothers living the thug life, from Toronto’s Sébastien Heins. Undercurrents runs Feb. 8 to 11 and 14 to 18 at Arts Court.

Margo MacDonald Comes Home — The Elephant Girls

“When I was a young artist just starting out,” says actress and playwright Margo MacDonald, “I made the active choice to remain in Ottawa and make theatre happen to prove that it could be done.” And that she did. She not only founded Shakespeare troupe a Company of Fools 27 years ago but she has also appeared on all the city’s stages. However, MacDonald recently relocated to Toronto — not for her career but for love. Fortunately for us, on Feb. 8, she returns with her one-woman show, The Elephant Girls, as part of the Ottawa Fringe’s 20th-anniversary series and simultaneously to open the Undercurrents Festival. Patrick Gauthier, director of both festivals, says it was a no-brainer, as The Elephant Girls was a huge hit at the 2015 Fringe, sold out on tour, and won many awards. “It was exactly what we were looking for.”

Based on the true story of a female gang in London known as the Forty Elephants, The Elephant Girls was such a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe that it will tour the U.K. later this year.

But what does this success mean for fans of MacDonald? “I think I accomplished pretty much everything I set out to do in Ottawa, so now I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the world has to offer. That being said, I do hope to be back in Ottawa often.” Ottawa audiences should be so lucky.

Underground Fringe

Ottawa-born theatre darling Hannah Moscovitch makes her highly anticipated NAC debut with her latest play, Infinity, Feb. 28 to March 11 in the NAC Studio. Talent fuels dysfunction in this family drama that features live classical music.

Infinity, Feb 28 to March 11 at NAC. Photo Cylla Von Tiedemann
Infinity, Feb 28 to March 11 at NAC. Photo Cylla Von Tiedemann

Presented by Toronto’s Volcano Theatre, a company known for challenging, politically engaged work, Infinity is in safe hands with its artistic director, Ross Manson, at the helm. His work uniting the arts and sciences was recently recognized with a Siminovitch Prize nomination. (The award is named for distinguished scientist Louis Siminovitch and his late wife, pioneering feminist playwright Elinore, and is meant to honour their marriage of hearts and minds.) It’s the largest theatre prize in Canada. Moscovitch may now make her home elsewhere, but Ottawa remains proud to call her a native, and with good reason: her career is soaring. She is a multi-award-winning playwright and, in 2016, was the first Canadian to win the $150,000 (USD) Windham-Campbell Prize from Yale University. With this heavy-hitting playwright-director duo, Infinity’s theatrical punch is likely to be felt in perpetuity.

Upcoming

Young learners (kids 4–10) and their parents can practise their alphabet en français with 26 lettres à danser. This multidisciplinary dance show, by Montreal’s Bouge de là, makes us care about letters in a way we’d never thought possible. Feb. 11 to 12 at the University of Ottawa’s Academic Hall.

26 Lettres a danser, Feb 11-12 at UofO. Photo: Rolline Laporte
26 Lettres a danser, Feb 11-12 at UofO. Photo: Rolline Laporte

Still reeling from Harper Lee’s reveal in Go Set a Watchman that our beloved Atticus Finch is a racist? Turn back time with a trip to North America’s oldest ongoing community theatre, Ottawa Little Theatre, and take in Lee’s true masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird, onstage Feb. 15 to March 4.

To celebrate Canada’s 150th, the Great Canadian Theatre Company is honouring their name and presenting their first production ever to be staged in our other “official” language — with English surtitles, of course. Les Passants, a co-production with Théâtre la Catapulte, uses vignettes to joyfully explore the intricacies of life’s little surprises and revels in the beautiful absurdity of human nature. Don’t let it pass you by; it runs Feb. 21 to March 12.

If you missed the premiere of Trust: A requiem for wood and stone at last year’s Canada Dance Festival, you’re in luck: a new adaptation of this modern dance duet will be unveiled Feb. 23 to 25 at the Ottawa Dance Directive’s space in Arts Court. Its Chalmers Award-winning choreographer Tedd Robinson is a true original.

Trust: A requiem for Wood and Stone at Arts Court Feb 23-25. Photo: Rod MacIvor
Trust: A requiem for Wood and Stone at Arts Court Feb 23-25. Photo: Rod MacIvor