If you had asked me yesterday how I felt about seeing a play set in the post-apocalyptic wild west of Ontario, I doubt that I would have been very excited.
Then I saw Divine, and it’s marvellous. I am definitely excited! Everything about it is wonderful, the cast, the performances, the script, the set, everything. It opened on Friday at Factory Theatre as part of the 2017 SummerWorks Performance Festival.
Playwright Natalie Frijia has developed a kind of condensed English for the play. It’s more than an accent and less than a patois. There’s almost a musical cadence to the dialogue. It’s very stylized and quite beautiful.
Her script is funny, touching, and makes you think about where you think your loyalties lie and where they really lie.
There’s a narrator, Haley Garnett, who tells us the back story as if it’s an old camp fire tale and fills in details as the play progresses through a series of real time and flashback scenes.
Water has dried up. People are dying. There’s one water diviner left, Penn – played by Amanda Cordner. She’s the last hope of two bandits, Swan and Lem – played by Sarah Campbell and Rehaset.
Campbell and Rehaset play the bandits as a team, almost as one character. Swan, the no so bright leader and Lem, her loyal sidekick who tries to inject some logic into Swan’s decision making. Their timing is perfect.
I can’t even begin to describe how wonderful Cordner is as Penn. Strong, a woman of few words defending her town but burdened with the knowledge that she’s a diviner who can’t find water.
Aviva Armour-Ostroff is more terrifying as the Preacher when she smiles than when she’s coldly threatening; so relaxed, such a gentle voice offering such terrible options.
Christina Bryson is Marion, the bartender who spends most of her time thinking about whiskey. Her celebratory yell when Penn finds water is amazing. If you ever need anyone to hoot and holler, get Bryson.
As well as being the terrific story teller, Garnett plays Seven, a child who is everywhere in the play. Seven is one of those children who are older than their years but still young and eager to please and to be loved. She’s endearing and heartbreaking at the same time.
Christine Urquhart’s set, Sage Paul’s costumes, and Imogen Wilson’s props support the strong performances.
Urquhart’s set features a painted backdrop that suggests a desert. It has a cutout circle that gets filled with a paper sun or moon. It’s beautifully evocative.
I loved Paul’s costumes. I think my favourite was the Preacher in layers of black, some transparent, some stiff, that seem to suggest the layers of complexity of the character.
I could be wrong, but I think that Wilson made her prop guns from water bottles. They were shiny and transparent and looked like plastic but not moulded plastic. Nice touch.
I’m sure that every director’s dream is a show that is greater than its parts. With Divine Claire Burns achieves this.
Sometimes it’s harder to write a review for a show I really love than it is for a show I didn’t really like. So it is with Divine. I just want to say it’s a terrific show, see it. The acting from this all female cast is amazing, I love the costumes, they have guns made from plastic water bottles. What more could you want?
Seriously, Go see it. You won’t regret it.
- Divine plays at Factory Theatre (145 Bathurst St)
- Remaining performances:
- Saturday August 5th 3:45pm – 5:00pm
- Sunday August 6th 5:00pm – 6:15pm
- Tuesday August 8th 9:45pm – 11:00pm
- Wednesday August 9th 8:00pm – 9:15pm
- Saturday August 12th 7:00pm – 8:15pm
- Sunday August 13th 1:30pm – 2:45pm
- SummerWorks tickets are now Pay What You Decide at $15, $25, or $35, whichever suits your budget. All tickets are general admission and there are no limits to any price level. Tickets are available at the performance venue (cash only), online and in person at the SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street). Open August 1-13 from 10am-7pm. Cash and credit accepted.
- Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 7 shows.
Audience Advisory: Coarse language, violence, a reference to sexual violence (13+). Latecomers permitted up until 10 minutes after the start of the event. The August 6 show has been designated as a Relaxed Performance.
Photo of Amanda Cordner by John Gundy