Theatre Review: Stitch-An a cappella opera by Urbanvessel at the Theatre Center

By Adelina Fabiano

Original and organic operetta overpowers our senses

The repetitive and rhythmical sound of, “Chain stitch, lock stitch, whip stitch”, repeatedly played in my head as I left the theatre this evening. Urbanvessel’s production of Stitch, at the Theatre Centre provides us with a glimpse into the inner imaginings of the women who work tirelessly in sewing sweatshops.

Stitch, cleverly written by composer-librettist duo Juliet Palmer and Anna Chatterton, is an unexpected, profoundly powerful piece of fine art at its best.

As the audience enters the theatre space, we are welcomed by three actors in role simultaneously tearing pieces of red fabric. The tearing of the fabric is done sharply and steadily reflecting the mundane nature of their daily work and inner turmoil.

The set resembled an exquisite art installation with a plethora of light bulbs hanging freely from the ceiling. Three sewing machines were placed diagonally across the semi-circular stage. The actors sat “trapped” in their chairs, miming the clothing they sewed with precision and accuracy.

Movement accompanied the staccato of sounds within each new verse. The three female performers, playing nameless workers in a sweatshop, executed finely crafted performances. Vocally distinctive and equally multi-faceted, each performer vigorously portrayed a different longing and emotional intensity.

Not a typical Opera or full length narrative play, this succinct 45 minute piece is full of wit and unexpected puns. The actor’s monologues and interaction with one another is mixed with blues, jazzy rhythms and sung speech making this a truly unique experience.

My guest for the evening was most impressed by the language of the piece and the actor’s ability to “play” with the words. Their harmonized singing without instrumental accompaniment was simplistic and mesmerizing. She felt there were also many moments of comedy despite the overall dark and sombre sentiment.

One significant part of this operetta is Christine Duncan’s gut wrenching performance midway through the play…literally gutturally groaning intensely and loudly. She has lost complete hope. It is very rare that a performance can make me feel uncomfortable as this moment did-a true testimony of authentic acting.

The simple yet defined choreography, by Marie-Josee Chartier, and the direction of Ruth Madoc-Jones accompanied the variability and fluidity of the composition itself.

There could be no better match then these two artistic visions.

Finally, the opera would not be complete without the exceptional vocals from Patricia O`Callaghan, Christine Duncan and Neema Bickersteth. If you are looking for a brief and stimulating evening of theatre, this original a cappella opera is sure to enrapture your senses.

Details :

Stitch is playing at the Theatre Centre located at 100-1087 Queen Street West from Wednesday May 26-Fri May 28 at 8pm with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2.30pm (benefit performance: Sat 7pm May 29).

To buy tickets call 416-538-0988/ or in person at the Theatre Centre 1 hour before the show for $20 ($2 facility fee).

Photo of Neema Bickersteth, Christine Duncan and Patricia O’Callaghan taken by J. Palmer