Review: Between The Sheets, a reading as part of Groundswell: A Festival of New Work by Women (Nightwood)

By Adam Collier

In late February, the Nightwood Theatre Company presented Groundswell: A Festival of New Work by Women. It took place at the Tapestry/Nightwood New Work Studio in Toronto’s distillery district.

A play titled Between The Sheets by Jordi Mand was read as part of Groundswell. In remarks beforehand, it was mentioned that Between The Sheets has been in development since last summer. The work originated in Nightwood’s Write from the Hip program.

My theatre partner was not enthusiastic to go to this event. “People actually pay,” he said in a tone of disdain, “just to hear a play read aloud?”

Sort of.

Groundswell was free. And that’s not unusual for an event like this – for example, the Tarragon Theatre’s week of new work readings was free, too. But in some cases – like the monthly Foundry Theatre series of play readings – the entrance fee is pay what you can, with a suggestion of $5 to $10.

The other thing to keep in mind is events like this are rarely about the performances. Staged play readings are – in my experience – closer to a workshop for the playwright to hear the audience respond to the work. Occasionally written feedback is requested, like at the Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival and at Buzz at Theatre Passe Muraille.

Overall, a play reading event is more of a celebration of work done so far. And there’s a cheerfulness to the night, usually with a bit of booze on hand.

Because Between The Sheets is still under development, it would be unfair – not to mention unprofessional – to parse the text.

More than fair though, talking about how something that might not sound entertaining – the reading of a play – can still offer stage worthy performances.

“It could have been a radio play” my theatre partner commented positively, after. He was referring to the quality of the readers.

Two actors read the character parts. One was Susan Coyne.

Ms. Coyne’s role, a woman that arrives late to parent-teacher interviews, insisting to meet with her son’s teacher, demands, especially at first, a steely determination to get what she wants. And – it seemed to me – Ms. Coin hit the right balance of concern and sheer presence in her volume and tone.

In the last third or so of Between The Sheets, the dynamic between the characters has shifted significantly. Ms. Coin’s character – persuasively I thought, though a bit abruptly – crumples with desperation.

Ms. Coin’s acting counterpart in Between The Sheets is Christine Horne. Ms. Horne’s character – in the way she is portrayed – comes across as quite tightly wound. Though she seems to give few hints of much to lose in the confrontation, Ms. Horne’s coolness was, in itself, a bit mesmerizing.

My theatre partner had similar comments.

After discussing what we had heard, we spent quite a long time discussing the phenomenon of readings like this one in Toronto.

He said he could remember a time when there were almost no theatres in Toronto. “Now,” he said, “there are just an astonishing amount of places where you can put on work in Toronto.”

With more theatres, more performance spaces, it makes sense that there ought to be more events like Groundswell that encourage the development of new work.

It was a fun event, one I’d encourage others to go to next year when it comes back for its 27th year.

Details

– Between The Sheets was performed as part of Groundswell: Festival Of New Works By Women, presented by Nightwood Theatre Company at the Tapestry/Nightwood New Work Studio (in the Distillery District, 55 Mill Street).

– Admission was free

 

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