Review: Circles (Dead and Lovely Collective)

Dead and Lovely Collective bring Circles to the Toronto stage

Since I started writing for Mooney on Theatre, one thing I’ve learned is to be excited about graduates from George Brown’s Theatre School. The program has produced some truly talented performers, and with the Dead and Lovely Collective I got to see 12 of them present their original piece Circles in the back room of the
Cameron House.

Blending Dante’s Inferno with an open mic night is an interesting choice. The postmodernist in me was completely enraptured with the concept, so I was excited to see the show.

The Cameron House is a great location for this production; when my date, Samantha, and I walked into the venue, there was an actual band playing in the main area, immediately giving us the sense that live music would be a core aspect of Circles.

To be clear here, Circles isn’t a jukebox musical; every one of the 22 live songs are original pieces by Lucas Penner, and musically they’re fantastic. The songs are catchy and unique, blending spoken word, jazz, punk and dark pop together to create a mosaic of styles that works really well with the anarchic feeling of an open mic evening. I will admit I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to lyrics, however, and the regular use of repetition left me a little disappointed, mostly because what lyrics were there had a great deal of power and creativity and only getting one verse and a chorus in some of the songs made me feel like I was getting shortchanged.

The show blends its live performance pieces with personal scenes between the characters, really showing off the talent present throughout the cast. I keep harping on about this, but George Brown either has some great teachers or an incredibly selective admissions process, because these people are good. Really good, and after some early minute stiffness (which I can’t hold against them considering it was opening night) they settled into their roles and made their characters sparkle with inner life.

I like to think myself a literate reviewer (considering how smug some of my previous reviews have been, I think readers have deduced this about me) but I’ll admit that besides the bare basics of the 9 Circles of Hell and the overall narrative of Dante’s Divine Comedy, I’m not that well versed in the Inferno, something that I felt hindered my full appreciation of the variety of characters that appear within Circles. Fortunately, the show uses the Inferno more as an inspiration than an overt structure, and it’s not completely necessary to have a knowledge of Dante’s works. Still, I do suggest giving the Wikipedia article a quick read before attending just to catch some of the references.

While I enjoyed the vast majority of Circles, one thing that did bother me was the ending, with the lead-up feeling unearned characterization wise and the actual resolution, while established, feeling a little Deus Ex Machina and rushed. This was a real shame because I was really enjoying the story and characters and looking forward to seeing how the show was going to get wrapped up.

With that being said, however, I have no doubt about the talent a creativity of the team behind Circles. I think with another round of workshopping, this could be one of the best pieces of theatre to come out of Toronto this year. Even with the rough edges, I strongly recommend seeing this show.

  • Circles is playing at the Cameron House Back Room (408 Queen Street West)
  • Performances Run October 3 to October 5 2017 with an additional performance on October 19th at Brick and Mortar’s One More Night Festival.
  • Showtimes are 8 PM, 9 PM on October 19.
  • Tickets are $10-$30 PWYW
  • Tickets are available online or at the door.

Photo provided by the company.

One thought on “Review: Circles (Dead and Lovely Collective)”

  1. I concur about George Brown performers… My favourite shows I’ve worked on since I started stage managing in Toronto have been filled with them, and also the most professional theatre grads I’ve worked with (on indie theatre) in this city so far.

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