Notable indie musicians are part of the intriguing work-in-progress, Paper Laced With Gold
Hatch at Harbourfront is an incubator program that allows multi-disciplinary performance artists to develop new work. Each show is a work-in-progress, and is followed by a Q&A and then a reception so the artists can gather feedback from the audience to improve their work. I saw Paper Laced With Gold, a musical set in a small town truck stop on the Trans Canada highway, and it was a perfect example of the purpose of Hatch. It incorporates different mediums, theatre and music, in a different way from your standard musical; the story is resonant and ever so Canadian; the script needs work, but that work will likely expand it to a full length show. (It was about an hour long.)
I think the premise of the story has potential to be intriguing for anyone, but since it is set in a small mill town on Highway 17, similar to where I grew up, I was particularly engrossed. A monologue about the smell of sulphur inducing nostalgia – not for a place you ever want to go back to, but a place where you had spent most of your life – vividly brought back memories of being welcomed to town by the scent of rotting eggs every weekday when I was bussed into town to attend high school.
The action of the play revolves around a teenage delinquent, Kevin, who encounters his old babysitter from back in the mill town in a truck stop where she works as a waitress. One of the places where the script needs work is the back story on why Kevin’s on the run and why he’s so scared. It is explained but not satisfactorily, not in a way that really conveys a sense of his fear or any real danger.
Kevin and his friend Joe are cross-gender cast, played by Vanessa Dunn and Katie Richie, respectively. This adds a deliciously transgressive aspect to the piece, as well as allowing the part of a seventeen year old boy to be convincingly performed by someone with training in acting.
Katie Richie, known as Katie Sketch as the front woman of the now-defunct but fantastic indie rock band The Organ, is not theatre trained but Joe mostly sings for the scene he is in, the first scene of the show, so there is no distraction due to an obvious difference in acting skill. Unfortunately, there are untrained people working with seasoned actors in the rest of the show and it doesn’t work as well.
The set was made out of cardboard and green electrical tape, which had two great effects: it seemed transitory, reflecting the theme that people who come into the truck stop are on their way to somewhere else; it looked easy to recreate and almost-but-not-quite bland, mimicking the sameness of truck stops along the Trans Can. I also loved the integration of the musicians into the action as patrons of the truck stop, and think future productions could embellish on that aspect even more.
The music itself was also fantastic. It was a far cry from show tunes; it was more like indie folk punk rock. All of the musicians, Drew Smith, Lisa Bozikovic, John Power and Stevie Jackson, who is also the composer, are in indie pop/rock bands. (I may have swooned a little when I saw in the program that Stevie Jackson is in Belle & Sebastian.) So until Paper Laced With Gold, is further developed and has a full run, you can listen to the work of their wonderful musicians.
Photo credit: Guntar Kravis