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Theatre Review

Friday, October 3, 2014

It is Solved by Walking

A poetic play about the poetry of living

Posted By on Fri, Oct 3, 2014 at 11:10 AM


It is Solved by Walking
is a journey into the mind and heart of a 53-year-old woman named Margaret (Ruth Lawrence) who’s struggling to unearth the roots of her failed marriage and her thwarted dream of becoming a poet. She has the help of an unusual muse: the dead American poet Wallace Stevens (Hugh Thompson), who guides and goads her as she examines her life in terms of Stevens’ famously enigmatic poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”. Stevens is a demanding taskmaster, never allowing Margaret to settle for easy answers either in her interpretation of his poem or of her memories. Much of the play has to do with two seemingly opposing forces in Margaret’s life: sex (And here, Lawrence’s beautiful performance captures both the ecstasy and banality of the act), which grounds her, and poetry, which allows her to soar. The two states are reflected in Sue LePages’ economic-yet-evocative set by a prominent bed and a poet’s desk elevated high above the stage. In the end, it is Margaret’s uncompromising quest for the truth that allows her  to unite her earthiness and lightness and ascend to the poet’s seat. Lovely and uplifting.

This is the Atlantic Canadian premiere of the Governor General Award winning script by local playwright Catherine Banks.

Friday October 3rd- 8 pm
Saturday October 4th- 4 pm & 8 pm
Sunday October 5th- 2 pm & 8 pm

All performances take place at Neptune's Scotiabank Studio Theatre.


$25 general
$20 student/senior/arts worker
$15 each for groups of ten or more

Tickets are available online, in person at the Neptune Theatre Box Office at 1593 Argyle Street, or by phone at (902) 429-7070.

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Day 9 at Magnetic North

Festival musings and Iceland

Posted By on Sat, Jun 28, 2014 at 4:28 PM

Fire and ice share the stage in Nicolas Billon's Iceland
  • Fire and ice share the stage in Nicolas Billon's Iceland

Magnetic North Theatre Festival draws to a close tonight, and that makes me sad.

It's been a whirlwind of plays and events. It's brought dollars and ideas to Halifax. It's brought attention to our exciting theatre scene and to our lovely city. 

It's hard to imagine how many volunteer and paid hours have gone into pulling together an event of this complexity. From where I sit, I say it's been a valuable experience. Many thanks to all involved.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Day 7 at Magnetic North

Critical conversation, Demostage and Who Killed Spalding Gray?

Posted By on Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 6:08 PM

MacIvor and Gray meet beyond the table
  • MacIvor and Gray meet beyond the table

I am a reviewer, not a critic, so I have to admit I was flattered and nervous to be invited to sit on a Magnetic North industry panel called "On Critical Discourse Within Communities". I wasn't sure what I'd have to add to the discussion, but as it turned out it was a productive and stimulating experience.

My fellow panelists were Indian actor/director Quasar Thakore Padamsee; Raphael Martin, Director of New Work & FEED at Soho Rep. in New York; frequent Wayves Magazine contributor and actor/gay rights activist Hugo Dann and Amanda Campbell who writes the well-known theatre blog The Way I See It (TWISI).

The panel was a true conversation, with theatre practitioners from across the country weighing in on the value of theatre writing. 

What I took from it all is that  while there is still definitely a need for "theatre boosters"  (people whose writing raises the profile of theatre and grows audiences) Halifax is ripe for more critical discourse that will help the burgeoning theatre scene here grow and improve.

In the afternoon, Secret Theatre presented their patent-able "Demostage" to a packed house at the Company House. Theatre artists were given five minutes to preview a work in progress, eliciting audience feed back and whetting the appetite for future incarnations. Brilliant!

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Day 6 at Magnetic North

An elevator play and The Tale of a Town

Posted By on Wed, Jun 25, 2014 at 7:34 AM

Main Street on parade in Tale of a Town
  • Main Street on parade in Tale of a Town

I'm feeling pretty pleased with my theatre choices today. The immersive experiences of seeing a play in an elevator and a play that transformed The Bus Stop Theatre into a rural General Store (with such attention to detail!) really complimented each other.

I loved the intensity of being inches from the two actors in Catherine Banks' elevator play The Tip of Things. I loved how the story unfolded, slowly at first and then suddenly —-snap!—-like a sheet in the wind. I loved that in five minutes, I had a picture of the lives of the two women before me, some of it written and the rest self-conjured.

Edmonton's Yes Theatre has commissioned 16 five-minute plays from across the country. Four of them our being performed at Mag North. Today's the last day to take one in. The experience will move you.


Tale of a Town - Nova Scotia: Directed by Lisa DiLiberto
Created and Produced by FIXT POINT Theatre (Toronto, ON)

For the past couple of months, Charles Ketchabaw and Lisa Marie Diliberto have traveled across Nova Scotia collecting oral histories about our province's main streets. These stories have been woven together to create a unique theatre experience that may well prove to be my favourite in the whole festival.

The play is set in a generic "small town Nova Scotia" that references different specific places as stories are told. Recordings of first-person accounts launch different vignettes, and actors take over the roles of the recorded voices. The various stories all come together in the frame of one specific store, peopled by a cast of characters who are fighting to preserve their rural way of life.

None of this description captures the sheer charm of Tale of a Town. The performers bring the voices on the recordings to life with broad strokes, but with a sensitivity that never crosses over into parody. The stories themselves beautifully evoke a by-gone era, yet the show itself does not remain in the past. It's end-note is a kind of road map for community. 

You know you've enjoyed a theatre experience when you have to wipe tears from your eyes, but you can't wipe the goofy grin from your face.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Day 5 at Magnetic North

Industry workshops, feasts and a Pop-Up Love Party

Posted By on Tue, Jun 24, 2014 at 12:11 PM

Zuppa Theatre meets Plato at Lion and Bright
  • Zuppa Theatre meets Plato at Lion and Bright

Thanks (or no thanks) to a broken axle, I had to miss out on 2b Theatre's When It Rains on Sunday night, but I did see it, and loved it, when it premiered here in 2011. I can't fit it in now, but with shows tonight and tomorrow, you can. The festival buzz on it is fabulous.

The industry portion of Magnetic North is an excellent way for theatre practitioners to pool knowledge and make valuable contacts. For instance, yesterday I took in an industry talk on the nitty-gritty of touring theatre. There was a wealth of knowledge shared by a panel of international presenters who offered some useful "inside information". 

The industry feasts are another way to meet and mingle in a more informal atmosphere. The meals showcase some of Halifax's great dining spots (last night's was The Carleton). I shared supper and spirited conversation with theatre presenters from Ottawa, New York and Reykjavik who were attending Magnetic North on the look-out for shows to bring home to their own festivals.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Day 3 at Magnetic North

Lear, Broken Sex Doll, roller skates and the The Drinking Game

Posted By on Sun, Jun 22, 2014 at 1:20 PM

Lear like you've never seen it.
  • Lear like you've never seen it.

Magnetic North is more than just 11 days of plays. There are activities happening all over the city that showcase Halifax to the world, and bring Haligonians "up close and personal" with theatre practitioners from across Canada.

A great example was last night's Oval Roller Skating Party, which is presented in collaboration with Nocturne Art At Night. Balloons and tunes, bubbles and chalk —-there was a real community party atmosphere. And with with the help of a patient and kind five-year-old, this first-time Oval visitor made it once around the track. 

The fun extended well into the night with a raucous round of DaPoPo Theatre's The Drinking Game. The Festival bar at The Atlantica Hotel was packed as DaPoPo members bared their souls with a series of personal questions and quirky challenges.

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Magnetic North Theatre Festival 2014

News, reviews and views from MNTF - Halifax

Posted By on Sat, Jun 21, 2014 at 11:05 AM

Denise Clarke speaking volumes through movement
  • Denise Clarke speaking volumes through movement

It was just under a year ago that I began to hear the buzz in Halifax that Magnetic North would be coming here. I had a sense that this was kind of a big deal. Magnetic North is, after all, Canada's only national theatre festival—-a veritable movable feast that exposes Canadians to theatre from across the country, and showcases Canadian theatre to presenters from across the world.

I didn't know, however, that the Mag North (as it's commonly referred to) would be a kind of theatre Christmas: Eleven jam-packed days of plays and panels and activities and...and...and...

I'm going to try and share here some of the best of what I see and experience and I hope you'll take advantage of having innovative Canadian theatre on your door step.

Continue reading »

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

HSOW's A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A memorable take on an old favourite

Posted By on Sun, Aug 5, 2012 at 2:26 PM


While I may not be an out-and-out opera buff, I am eternally grateful to Halifax Summer Opera Workshop for introducing me to the delights of some accessible works over the past few years. And as of now, their latest production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, has risen to the top of my “favourites” list.

The opera, written by Benjamin Britten, is pure magic. Britten’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Dream focuses primarily on the machinations within the fairy world, and his music seems intrinsically right for that world.

And while this is show filled with high points, but I’ll give you three just to whet your appetite: Oberon (played by Andrew Pickett) is delightfully perverse and his queen Tytania (Allison Nicholas) is sensuous and exotically beautiful. The pair, along with the fairy crew, close the show with the most haunting and lovely piece of music. Shilpa Sharma as Hermia and Ashley Buckhout as Helena bring down the house with their height-based cat fight. And the mechanicals… well what can I say except funny, funny, funny.

I’ve seen many productions of Dream, but I know this will always stand out for me.

There are two more chances to see this show (one with this cast, one with another) as well as opportunities to see HSOW's two other offerings Carmen and One Act Operas.

Check out for dates, times and prices.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Twelve Angry Men

Twelve compelling actors

Posted By on Fri, Aug 3, 2012 at 12:21 PM


Theatre Arts Guild did a brilliant job a couple of years ago with their production of Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men, and now Halifax has another opportunity to see the classic courtroom drama. Lion’s Den Theatre (the newish company that recently revived the hilarious Arsenic and Old Lace) opened the play at The Bus Stop Theatre last night to a full house. The caliber of acting was, to a man, exceptional. Daniel Gervais is a powerful and persuasive Juror 8. He puts his own stamp on the role, coming off grumpier than I remember Henry Fonda being in the 1957 movie version. Jesse Robb is perfect as the petulant Juror 7, and Ira Henderson simply shines as the brutish Juror 3. At 80 minutes, this production is brief and brisk, but all the salient points that lead to the unexpected verdict are still there. Go, even if you’ve seen this play before, and certainly go if you haven’t.

See it at The Bus Stop Theatre, 2203 Gottingen St, Halifax.
Thursday August 2 - Sunday August 5 8PM
Saturday August 4 - Sunday August 5 2PM
Tickets are $15 General and $12 Students/Seniors/Artists
For tickets or information, please contact

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Science Inaction: A Love Story

A clever comedy brought to you by Wit's End

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 9:24 AM


You’ve probably been following Wit’s End Theatre as they blog here at The Coast about the birth and growing pains of their company. You know Wit’s End is dedicated to putting on shows that will make you laugh, and their fourth production Science Inaction: A Love Story is very successful at that.

It’s the story of two science nerds from different disciplines—-sociology and neurobiology, who meet and fall in love, or at least lust. The audience watches their story unfold in different styles and “realities” evoking plenty of laughter.

There’s no doubt that actors Liz Johnston and Lewis Wynne-Jones have a remarkable comic chemistry. This piece showcases their charm and impeccable timing to a T.

The play itself, written and directed by Griffin McInnes, explores interesting ideas in interesting ways, however, it lags in spots and is ultimately dragged down by a too-serious conclusion for a brainy romp.

A cool set by Brian Riley and some brilliant film and projection by Nick Bottomley make this show visually memorable. Oh, and did I mention, you’ll laugh, A LOT.

Science Inaction: A Love Story
Written and directed by Griffin McInnes
Starring Liz Johnston and Lewis Wynne-Jones
The Bus Stop Theatre (2203 Gottingen Street)
June 28th, 2012 to June 30th, 2012: 8:00 pm, admission of $20/$15 for students and underwaged
July 1st, 2012: 2:00 pm, admission of $10

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Little Women: The Musical

Great story, great cause

Posted By on Sat, Jun 23, 2012 at 6:32 AM


It seems fitting that Little Women, a story fueled by loving relationships and plucky, can-do attitudes, is being used to raise funds for as worthy a charity as the Metro Non-Profit Housing Association.

The Broadway Musical version is a little disjointed in its retelling of Louisa May Alcott's tale of a tight-knit family living through the American Civil War, but it hits all the high points I remember from the story. Tia Andria nails the pivotal role as the strong-willed Jo, and she is supported by a uber-talented young cast. The choreography is polished and the singing (for the most part) very professional.

The Second Act drags, mostly due to its heavier subject matter and too-frequent songs, but ends on a happy note that stresses the value of friends and family.

June 21 to 24 at 7pm at The Neptune Studio Theatre.Tickets are $15 for children/seniors and $20 for adults and are available online at or at 902 429 7070

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Friday, June 8, 2012

A not-so tragic Train Wreck

Quirky show proves self-love (in all its forms) is best

Posted By on Fri, Jun 8, 2012 at 12:47 PM


Angels & Heroes’ Domestic Train Wreck is a deceptively cozy piece of performance art that explores the role of memory and mammaries in one woman’s life. The woman is Melanie Bennett, an actor/playwright who based the show on her unorthodox upbringing by a mother who was obsessed with Harlequins and Soaps. Bennett weaves together fragments of memory, audience participation segments, folksy chatter and a high-tech soundscape produced on stage by musician (and game show host extraordinaire)Aaron Collier. The show, which is directed with energy and fine pacing by Richie Wilcox, covers a lot of territory in a little over an hour. And while it may tell one woman’s specific story from self-described “train wreck” to empowered woman, it speaks volumes about the way society views and values women. Go for the laughs, enjoy the cheese dreams, and know that you’ll be thinking about this show long after it is over.

June 6-June 10 at the North Street Church, 5657 North Street, 8pm (2pm Sun), $20, 420-6909

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Of Sirens and sailors

Wail: Songs of the Brier Island Siren blends music, movement and imagination

Posted By on Fri, May 11, 2012 at 10:56 PM


A new Nova Scotian myth has been born, thanks to the creative talents of Artistic Director Christina Murray, Movement and Scenography Designer Claire Leger and the Camerata Xara Young Women’s Choir. They have brought to life an original piece of choral theatre set on Brier Island Nova Scotia that blends together the stories of real-life, legendary sailor Joshua Slocum and of mythical Sirens. The young women of the choir portray the Sirens, creatures who have been transformed from birds to women and grounded on the island. Actor Alan Slipp reads adapted excerpts from Slocum’s diary that tell the tale of the sailor as a young lonely boy befriending (and ultimately betraying) the Sirens. But it is the music more than the spoken word that tells this story, and what glorious music it is. The choice of songs is eclectic, ranging from the traditional “Briar and the Rose” to the primal and haunting “Raising the Wind”. At times, voices cascade from the mezzanine and blend with others that are rising from below. The singers dance and move with effortless grace, making this a feast for the eyes as well as the ears. Don't miss this amazing opportunity to be present at the birth of a legend.

Maritime Museum of the Altantic, May 12 8pm

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December 1917: The Halifax Explosion

Don't let a surfeit of tragedy keep you from this play

Posted By on Fri, May 11, 2012 at 12:43 PM


Even if a relentless diet of Titanic anniversary fare has filled you to the brim with tragedy, I urge you to go see December 1917: The Halifax Explosion. This beautifully constructed piece of theatre has been brought to Halifax by the members of the new graduating class of the Sheridan-UTM Theatre and Drama Program in Ontario. The class (along with director Meredith Scott) adapted facts and survivor accounts from two books to create a lucid and lyrical retelling of the tragedy. The first half of the play forms a kind of introduction to a large cast of characters and sets up the facts of the tragedy itself. In the second, post-explosion half, the fates of the characters are revealed. Movement and music are used to great effect, bridging scenes and beautifully representing the inconceivable death and devastation. I was also most impressed by the costumes and especially the makeup (Something I don’t notice often!). In the first half, the pale faces and accentuated facial plains were reminiscent of silent movies and in the second they became ghoulish, zombie-like death masks. Brilliant!

May 10th-12th at 8pm and May 12th at 2pm at the Alderney Landing Theatre

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

History and whimsy unite in The Whimsy State

Play leaves you laughing...and wondering

Posted By on Thu, May 10, 2012 at 11:45 AM


I think it’s likely that a large portion of last night’s The Whimsy State audience rushed home to look up the Principality of Outer Baldonia on Wikipedia. (I know I did!) That’s because this tale of three men who formed a micro nation off the coast of Nova Scotia in 1948 is supposedly based on a true story, but is so far-fetched that it’s hard to believe. Well, apparently you can believe it. And veracity aside, it makes a charming play filled with characters who you’d love to raise a pint with. Graham Percy as the American lawyer who is the mastermind of the plan plays good-natured optimism to a t. David LeReaney and Sheldon Davis are the two grizzled Nova Scotia fisherman who get behind the dream. Their hilarious turns of speech were one of the many highlights of the show. The cast is rounded out by Karen Johnson-Diamond who does a memorable job as both a tempestuous Russian diplomat and a frosty secretary. Whimsy State is a lovely marriage of comedy and history. Highly recommended!

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In Print This Week

Vol 28, No 3
November 12, 2020

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