Morning Glory (Kate Lushington and Soo Garay) 2011 SummerWorks Review

Morning Glory is a show written out of the truth. It documents, dramatizes, and details the experiences of Karin Bolette Sonne, in prison and in a center for women with what are referred to in the program as “mental health issues.” It feels facile and unfair to try to review a show that’s so obviously not meant to be entertaining in the typical sense. Morning Glory is much closer to an Augusto Boal-style, Theatre of the Oppressed series of performances, created to bring hidden injustice to light through the art form of theatre. It utterly succeeds.

In light of the work’s theme, it’s well suited to Theatre Passe Muraille‘s Backspace – I would find it disconcerting to sit in air conditioned comfort while watching such difficult material. The humid, slightly makeshift-feeling, intimate Backspace is a good fit for a play about mental illness in prison, and the raked seating also adds an eerie, Panopticon quality to the experience.

The cast of five is not quite an ensemble, with the extraordinary Soo Garay – whom I would cheerfully pay cash to watch make oatmeal – taking on an extra helping of the work. She’s so well cast here. The other cast members hold up their ends valiantly in the light of the tough material, and you can see where director Kate Lushington has tried to help them find their way into it with markers of posture, movement, and vocal inflection. Some are more successful than others. Several actors play a couple different parts (or the same person, changed by time inside), which works well.

In some parts, I found the writing to be too much for the cast, except Garay, who digs deep to come across. It’s hard to blame them – there are so many complex and shifting emotions in the work. They’re focused and committed, for sure, but ideally they’d get a couple more weeks of rehearsal with this finished text.

Playwright Sonne’s original paintings make great visual punctuation to the action onstage, and designers Andy Moro and Gabriella Caruso of Red Pepper Spectacle Arts (the people who bring you Festival of Lights every year in Kensington Market) make great visual choices in the projections, costumes and setpieces. It’s a little jarring to have a show about prison and mental illness be so good to look at, but it works: it’s sort of the sugar coating to the bitter medicine.

There are faults to the production. But none of them stuck with me long with the content pinballing around in my brain. Some parts of this show might be too difficult, especially to people who have struggled with mental illness/neuro-atypicality or have family or friends in prison. I have to say, though, for me, it’s pretty much exactly what SummerWorks is for – and exactly why the festival is indeed dangerous to The Harper Government™.

Details

Morning Glory plays at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave

Thursday August 4th 4:30 PM
Saturday August 6th 11:30 AM
Sunday August 7th 9:30 PM
Monday August 8th 4:30 PM
Wednesday August 10th 7:00 PM
Friday August 12th 9:30 PM
Saturday August 13th 2:00 PM

-All individual SummerWorks tickets are $15 at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.artsboxoffice.ca, by phone at 416.504.7529, in person at the Arts Box Office (located at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave., One block North East of Bathurst & Queen W. M-F 12PM-7PM, Weekends 10AM-8PM) (Advance tickets are $15 +HST and $1 service fee)

– Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 3 shows