The Cleansing of Constance Brown – WorldStage at Harbourfront

By Olya Ryabets

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The Cleansing of Constance Brown is the last show of this year’s World Stage Festival at the Harbourfront Centre. It’s created and performed by the members of the experimental British company Stan’s Cafe and is well worth seeing. The company tells us that the performance “has been made with love” and it shows.

This is one of those shows you should rush out and get tickets for this minute, because not only is it a VERY short run – the show closes May 9th – but there is only room for 35 audience members per show.

The Cleansing of Constance Brown is a series of non-verbal sequences set to music and presented in a constantly transforming corridor, which actors, moving through time periods and a variety of human institutions, enter and leave by way of mysterious side doors.   As you form your own unique ideas of just what these rooms might contain, you are also invited to reflect on a variety of themes. 

I wholeheartedly wished a bigger budget for the company along with a more refined and detail-oriented designers.  The tech aspects of the show lack weight and polish.  This makes them no match for the finely tuned, impeccably paced acting.  The idea is there, but it demands a larger scale and perhaps the show would be better off as a site-specific event. 

I should warn you though, I am a picky stage perfectionist and a huge sucker for eye-candy, so take my opinions with a grain of salt. Still, one can only wonder what a higher level of design would do for the already fantastic energy of the tremendously likeable, excellently-rehearsed cast.

For those who prefer a direct linear narrative, something that makes it’s ‘meaning’ somewhat explicit, this may not be the show for you.  Of course, if you’re thinking of trying out a different form of theatre, the prowess of the performers in this show might make it be the ideal one to cut your teeth on.  See how you feel having to make your own meanings and connections, it may be more comfortable than you expect.

For the audience member with a more jaded palette, desensitized to post-modernism over the course of, say, several years of post-graduate theatre studies, the show’s concepts might feel a tad redundant. Those people can take pleasure in the engaging soundtrack, as well as the fine acting and wonderful energy of the cast.

Indeed, if you are going to see this show for one reason, make it to witness the actors at work.  Their use and manipulation of time sent chills down my spine on several occasions. The entire 70 minutes are meticulously choreographed, even when the pace slows down a tad too much, leaving no twirl, twitch or eye-roll up to chance.

The show is about stories that we make ourselves. What do you see?

 

Details
The Cleansing of Constance Brown is playing at the EnWave Theatre (231 Queens Quay West) until May 9th 
– Show times are: Thu May 7, 2009  – 6:30pm and 9pm; Fri May 8, 2009 – 6:30pm and 9pm; Sat May 9, 2009 – 2pm and 8pm
– Tickets are $40 and available through the Harbourfront box office at 416-973-4000
Or online 

 

Photo by Ed Dimsdale

0 thoughts on “The Cleansing of Constance Brown – WorldStage at Harbourfront”

  1. I’m not quite sure what you mean by better design. I thought the sound and lighting design was stunning. The corridor was perfect in its simplicity. I didn’t see anything wrong with the costumes either as they suited the characters. Can you clarify what you’re referring to?

  2. Hey MK – it’s possible that in my attempt to keep things brief I omitted too much of Olya’s writing on the subject. I’ll go back to her original draft and copy and paste the full, non-edited, version of her comments.

  3. From the original unedited version of the piece (you know, before I stuck my nose in and possibly made it not as clear as it was *grin*)

    From Olya Ryabets:

    For those of us lucky enough to have witnessed last fall’s Emilia Galotti, directed by German “radical minimalist” Michael Thalheimer, visiting Stratford, the visuals of Cleansing might feel like a less expensive imitation. I wholeheartedly wished a bigger budget for the company along with a more refined and detail-oriented designers. The light design, by Paul Arvidson, is tasteful, but unremarkable. The costumes, as the only source of colour on stage, constructed by Kay Wilton or bought by Karen Stafford, could use a more defined palette. The set, designed by Stan’s Café and constructed by Steel The Scene and which is essentially a corridor with branching doors, lacks weight and polish and is no match for the finely tuned, impeccably paced acting. The idea is there, but it demands a larger scale and perhaps, if the company were unable to afford building such a structure, the show would be better off as a site-specific event. However, you might wish to take my opinions with a grain of salt, since I am a picky stage perfectionist and a huge sucker for eye-candy. Still, one can only wonder what a higher level of design would do for the already fantastic energy of the tremendously likeable, excellently-rehearsed cast.

    The visual aspect of the show begs the same professionalism and attention to detail (as the performance), but, sadly, does not receive it.

  4. Thanks, Megan!

    MK – Here is what I wrote in reply to you, before Megan’s comment:

    The design of the show reminded me of last fall’s Emilia Galotti, directed by German minimalist Michael Thalheimer, visiting Stratford, and, in comparison, the visuals of Cleansing feel like a less expensive variation. I found the the light design tasteful, but unremarkable. Since the costumes are essentially the only source of colour on stage, they carry a lot more than just the need to suit the characters and thus could use a more defined palette. I think that when we are dealing with visual theatre, things like these become important. The color of a tie or the shape of a water bottle carry a lot more information than they do in a, say, George F. Walker play. Much as yourself, I enjoyed the simplicity of the corridor, however I was distracted by (what I perceive) to be faults in its’ construction. For instance, the entire structure shook a couple of times and the edges around the movable back wall are jagged and uneven. I also think that the corridor could be more effective if it was made on a larger scale – deeper, starker, sleeker, with endless rows of doors…
    As for sound – I found it quite good, in fact, I believe I refer to the soundtrack as “engaging”. : – )

    Thank you for your comment! Leave more! : – )

    – O.

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