Review: New Voices (Ryerson Theatre School)

By Adam Collier

New Voices was a festival put on by the Ryerson Theatre School. It ran for a week: March 28th through April 2nd, at the Ryerson Theatre.

“Stick to the left as you go down the steps” an usher told me, before going in the theatre.

The steps ramble alongside a seemingly endless number of rows, before they arrive at a screen that’s nearly floor-to-ceiling. There, another usher directed me to a space behind the screen.

The latter space – where I took a seat – has a stage big enough, it seemed, to accommodate an apartment building. Maybe ten rows of chairs were in front of the stage.

Large, but intimate.

I couldn’t believe that this was only my first time here. As a facility, Ryerson seems – easily – to offer one of the best theatres in Toronto. Even the lobby’s impressive.

How refreshing, too. No expense seems to have been spared. And in my experience, that’s (extremely) rare in the cosmos of non-commercial performing arts.

On the night I attended New Voices, four works were performed.

The first was a movement-based work, titled fragment, by Michela Cannon. Specifically, Ms. Cannon is credited as its “guide.” Perhaps referring to her role leading improvisation work that, she notes in the program, provided material for fragment.

The Nature Of A Bullet followed fragment. Its writer, Nicholas Dipchand, also performs this monologue. Tayves Feddis directed.

Two more works followed an intermission. Embraces, by Courtney van Wirdum, features thirteen dancers. The second, titled Après, is by Kanika Amrose. Ms. Kanika, like Ms. Cannon, also appears in her own work.

Though I didn’t really know what to expect content-wise, I got an inkling of something positive from the program. One of the producers, Stefan Dzeparoski, introduces the festival, in part, as “a joyful celebration of youth and creativity.”

I agree with the latter bit – creativity – but I’d offer disagreement to Mr. Dzepatroski’s assessment that this was “a joyful celebration of youth.”

As emotionally acrobatic and kinetically fluid as the work is, the material was saturated with less-than-joyful experiences.

In fragment for example, we are confronted with illness, in Apres with death, and, in The Nature Of A Bullet, we are offered a world that only breaks from its apathy to be hypocritical. And perhaps more disturbing, Mr. Dipchand seems to suggest that to confront this world leads to a spiral of negativity and humiliation. As Tony Soprano once put it so well, “the circle jerk of life.”

Even Embrace, as it flirts with romance and togetherness, is set to melancholic songs. The type I associate with the terrifying uncertainty that some relationships have.

The sober themes of the content do not, of course, mean the work abstained from humor.

Jessica Way, the director of Apres, brings out what struck me as the perfect balance between innocence and desperation in her characters, especially Shawn and Joseph (played by Michal Grzeszczak). Mr. Grzeszczak’s scenes had me laughing out loud. Ms. Way also imbues Apres with graceful movement (for me, the best example of this is the car crash sequence).

The Nature Of A Bullet is also full of humor. Most of it derives from Mr. Dipchand’s dexterous voice work, re-enacting at least a dozen characters in his lead character Dave’s life, including a feeble man named “Seven Down,” three co-workers, a man who “looked homeless,” and a police officer.

The interplay between Dave and Seven Down lingers particularly for its awkwardness, reminding me of scenes between Homer Simpson and his father, Abe.

Occasionally, some of the sexually demeaning quips Dave made got laughs, too. Though maybe that was the spittle that accompanied Mr. Dipchand’s delivery that was getting them

Throughout the four works, production elements (like set, lighting and costume) were top-notch. At the same level, and sometimes exceeding, those of Soulpepper and the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People.

Overall, a very enjoyable night; I’d recommend going to any Ryerson production based on New Voices.

 

Details

New Voices was a festival put on by the Ryerson Theatre School. It ran for a week (March 28th through April 2nd), at the Ryerson Theatre (43 Gerrard Street East; just east of Yonge).

– Tickets cost $18 for regular admission, and $14 for students and seniors

– For details, please call 416-979-5118, or go to ryersontheatre.ca