Monday, September 20, 2010

Gypsy My Shakespeare

This week Majlis welcomed the Dzieci Theatre Group to the stage for a Gypsy retelling of Macbeth, cleverly (re)titled Makbet.

The evening had a great air of authenticity, with songs of the Balkan Gypsies playing as ambiance from dated vinyl records.

Entering the Majlis art space which I had come to know well over the season, I was immediately struck with the sense that something was very different. Eastern European accents, pickles, wine, and kielbasa were finding their way to each and every patron. The space was abuzz with laughter and story telling. One could even have their fortune read by a rather fascinating clairvoyant, who continued to have demands for readings until the very last minutes leading up to the play.

Screw Your Courage To The Sticking-Place

The play began with the audience slowly making their way onto the stage where seats were arranged in a circle around a seemingly eclectic collection of items - old-fashioned flashlights, a scarf, a hat, a jacket, et cetera. The “rules of engagement” for this particular show (taken directly from the groups leaflet) were as follows:

1) Actors must know the entire text.
2) Actors may not play the same role in successive sequences.
3) Roles can be taken or given, embraced or refused.
4) Three actors alone must play all the roles.
5) We begin in ceremony and remain in ceremony till the end.
6) Nothing else is planned.

The lights were dimmed and soon the only illumination came from the flashlights and wax candles dwelling in the centre of the stage.
Each article of clothing was designated to represent a particular character in the story, and whomever was wearing the item was to embody that character until it was passed on.
As mentioned, the troop does not attempt to anticipate who will play which part at any given moment. This creates a fabulous sense of madness as well as awe, “a sense of danger more akin to contact sports than to theatre(Makbet leaflet).” How fitting for Macbeth?

The Wine Of Life Is Drawn

The whole performance from start to finish was, in a phrase: of a people at the local and fundamental level; of the grass roots.

Make sure you see one of their shows this year. (

Edited By: Kit Cat (

Monday, September 6, 2010

Once There Was A Beautiful Kingdom

In rethinking our history, we are not just looking at the past but at the present, and trying to look at it from the point of view of those who have been left out of the benefits of so-called civilization. It is a simple but profoundly important thing we are trying to accomplish, to look at the world from other points of view. We need to do that, as we come into the next century, if we want this coming century to be different, if we want it to be not an American century, or a Western century, or a white century, or a male century, or any nation’s, any group’s century, but a century for the human race.

::Howard Zinn::

This week’s FoS was very much a theatre of the radical, breeding a mood that compelled a journey to the root of our perspectives and behaviours. A demand to re-evaluate the sense of exceptionalism of our brother to the south and ourselves.

Rapper, playwright, and activist Belladonna fervidly lifted away the thin soap-scorched skin veiling the discontent widely present in our nation.

Her poetry: layered yet simple. Belladonna twisted the often comforting nationalistic and capitalistic mythos, old and modern, with ease, sliding the perspective to those that have traditionally (and presently) not benefited from such underlying systems of belief.

One of the most pernicious and destructive modes of reasoning in our society today is that ‘if you work hard, you will become rich’. The meaning of that being, if you are poor, it is because you haven’t worked hard enough. Belladonna paints, with a frightening familiarity many of us can recognize, the effects of such dogma on a human mind.

Little can be said that will do justice to her pieces touching on war: simple, emotionally direct, urging nothing short of an end to war, in all forms, for any reasons.

Cheryl O, a cellist with salt and pepper hair, composed often somber, consistently emotionally potent accompaniment; a marriage of the sharp and the glossy set a tone akin to the sensation of being present in a George Orwell dystopia. This proved to be an outstanding combination with verse and dance.

Sasha Ivanochko’s dance was striking, unexpected and, when combined with Cheryl O’s cello, chops, effects and loopers, mercilessly engrossing. Sasha established the distinct impression she was embodying a single tortured creature, composed of the collective disturbance of a people, desperately attempting to grasp, to reconcile what they have been bred to believe, about just and unjust wars, the valuing of human beings, with the present state of the world.

Next week’s Figure of Speech is the last of the season, so be sure to drop by Majlis theatre.

Edited By: Kit Cat (

Monday, August 30, 2010

Club Majlis

To all the republican boys:
If your girls came home with a little swing in their step Saturday night, you can be sure they came from Majlis Arts.

This week’s Figure of Speech (seven) had pinned-hair and tight-buttoned Majlis theatre hike up its hem line to become an authentic New Deal era jazz club.

Heart Break Folklore

Live and unpublished poetry by Nicholas Power set a perfect blues atmosphere with reflections on love and loss and the ‘real intimacy of a Saturday night dance’. Power’s verse was both modern and direct, stripped of all the inessential, reminiscent of Rocco De Giacomo’s Ten Thousand Miles Between Us.

don’t rewrite old poems

you’ve already shed that skin

what do you want now

history or hysterics

no retreat no surrender

excerpt from writing on water by Nicholas Power (Gesture Press)

St. James Infirmary

The Simple Joys were simply the cat’s pajamas, bringing to mind the work of Django Reinhardt & St├ęphane Grappelli.

Drew Jurecka stunned the audience with his vocal performance, boasting a voice that made you feel like you were indulging in some guilty pleasure simply by listening.

An Eye Brow Raised Invokes A Smile

Phil Bourassa portrayed a real slick sheik, sporting a look snipped straight out of the 30’s. Saturday night, Bourassa brought to the stage his blend of improvised and passionate dance as well as dipped his toes into verse, performing a poem with Nicholas Power.

They’re All Thinkin’ I’m Their Baby

Alisha Ruiss, the brilliant, sassy bearcat, stepped up to the director’s chair for the first time for FoS seven, shaping & assembling the evening’s script all by her lonesome.

Singer, actress, songwriter, swing-dancer, Ruiss set the audience’s imagination on fire with blues and swing standards, as well as a composition inspired by New York composer Katie Thompson.

Ruiss certainly earned the centre of attention with her exceptionally funny songs and genuine baby vamp vibe. Plainly, the bright lights of the stage do not blind nor frighten this girl in the least. Keep an eye out for her performances in Toronto and New York City.

...Much love to all who came out to club Majlis this weekend, and stay tasty Toronto.

Edited By: Kit Cat (

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bedtime Stories For Bohemians

This week Majlis takes a hiatus from the Figure of Speech series to make room for our fun little fundraising project, re: roof.

On Saturday night, our very own lady of Majlis, to great anticipation, took the stage.

Mild-mannered Tricia Postle exposed her inner femme fatale, flaunting a voice both profoundly delicate and immediately powerful, boasting remarkably mixed and stunning soprano tones.

The evening’s set list included songs composed with an acute obsession with troubadour lyric poetry, which Tricia spread like hot butter over one-of-a-kind instrumentals.
Greg Lauzon’s eclectic collection of home-made percussion instruments added a fantastic movement to each piece.

Fabulously choreographed, dynamic and gripping, dance ensembles by Gauri Vanarase theatrically portrayed two heartfelt narratives. One of these narratives opened with a poem composed by her mother and written in her cradle tongue.

Above all, in its ritualism, grandiosity and sensationalism, Saturday evening’s performance was bursting with a delectable pagan beauty.

The show concluded serendipitously with lightning and lusty rain. Tricia Postle established herself as worthy of the plethora of approaching innocent boyish crushes as her yet-untitled-band begins public appearances. In the meantime, Majlis is one hurdy-gurdy closer to a spiffy new roof.

Edited By: Kit Cat (

Monday, August 16, 2010

Striped Socks & Other Tasty Edibles

Funny, unexpected and full of sock drawer confessions.

This week's Figure of Speech featured a fusion of the synthesized and
the natural. Compositions by Andrew Timar and Araz Salek produced a
particular native-wilderness atmosphere. Meanwhile, Cheldon Paterson’s,
aka “Professor Fingers”, pieces set a fantastically modern-artificial
vibe. The two styles at times combined, in one instance joining string
instruments and the sounds of spraying soap bubbles. At other times they
appeared to be conversing, arguing. Circling each other like predators.
This latter element proved to be extremely satisfying.

Meagan O’She’s movements were unusual and fascinating. The modern and
the wild seemed to employ her body as their instrument. Her dancing was
wonderfully interpretive of both creatures. In particular, her
movements to the synthesized sounds were unexpected and kept the
audience watching with curiosity.

Abdominal’s (Andy Bernstein) rap compositions had a genuine
light-hearted and optimistic tone, consistent with his other work. His
spoken word pieces, while revolving around generally petit-bourgeois problems,
were none-the-less profoundly funny.

Arguably his best performance, the piece titled ‘organizational tips for your
sock drawer’ was the smash of the evening, spurting audience members to
share their own sock-drawer confessions during intermission and after
the show. A short sock-cumentary was also filmed during those moments of
bohemian unbosoming.

Edited By: Kit Cat (

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sometimes When I’m Asleep Things Go Missing

This weekend four boys and girls went looking for the missing things. Without hesitation they went to where it hurt. And what they saw, they shared.

Figure of Speech Five had a wonderfully frightening and moody atmosphere, perhaps only adequately described as a petal delicate voice juxtaposed against ‘skin calloused grey.’

The audience was engaged in utter stupefaction, impatiently watching to ‘see what bad things happen.’

A dark aesthetic percolated every pore of the performance, yet no moment or movement was ever made to feel unduly heavy or overbearing. No tone or step appeared to question itself, although with only three rehearsals there were earmarked spaces for improvisation. The evening swayed from frenzied spurts of anarchy to a steady drum beat to a jazzy bass. Imaginatively painted locales varied from a smokey bar to a war-warn alley way. The talented Rob Clutton could not have set a more ideal instrumental tone for this performance. Meanwhile, Celine Marks took an interpretive approach (from poetry to music) to composing her movements. Each poem made its impression distinctly.

Amai Kuda’s vocal performance was utterly uncompromising and piercingly emotional. With the exception of a few planned arrangements, her improvisations organically married with each poem performed. Kuda also composed a song of her own for this performance, which acted as an interlude within a poem and displayed a fiery message of social justice.

At the centre of the performance was a rather singular poet, Phlip Arima, appropriately dressed in military-casual attire, sporting wild short-chopped purple hair. Arima led the small gang of mercenaries, so to speak, along with the audience, through the darkness. Every poem called forth a distinctly unique voice - often weighing heavy on the heart, as with the voice of a child; often terrifying, as with the voice of a mentally ill homeless woman.

In speaking to Arima, it becomes immediately clear that every nuance of his work is precisely refined. It contains subtleties that may be lifted out by a more mature audience while fully allowing a fifteen-year-old to connect to each and every piece on an emotional level.

What more can I say of Phlip Arima? He is a curiosity - he doesn’t quite think on human terms, which enables him to, simply put, notice relationships which others cannot.

Figure of Speech Five was a delightfully morbid smash. Here is to many more to come.

Edited By: Kit Cat (

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Beat Generating

Saturday night, Torontonians felt the pulse of Beat in their city. Inspired by Beat poetry, three artists pulled the essence of the movement from the 1950s into the present. A present desperate and thirsty for connection, to feel human and thrashing from an academic class convergence on wit and craft devoid of emotion.

It could be said that Beat poetry is the metre and rhyme of the proletariat. Born in the 1940s, and evolving through the 1950s, the Beat generation, as John Clellon Holmes described it in an article in the New York Times magazine, November 16, 1952, developed out of the youth growing up through WWII. They were disenchanted from the romanticizing of war and experiencing a profound divergence from public institutions. They had a blunt realization that liberty, democracy, justice, self-determination, that had been fought for, were hardly for everyone. How much liberty? Whose definition of democracy? Self-determination for whom? There was no way-bill for a refund on brothers, fathers, limbs. In the same article Holmes attempts to clarify the Beat as a generation: “more than mere weariness, it implies the feeling of having been used, of being raw...Brought up during the collective bad circumstances of a dreary depression, weaned during the collective uprooting of a global war, they distrust collectively.” Beat poetry emerged as a direct product of this organism.

This postwar generation was therefore more open to exploration of the human condition, to eccentricity, to a drastic reconstruction of the old pieced-together heap of social constructs about appropriateness. The poetry of this generation was not comprised of blazons of women’s fleshy bits, but of the reality of their lives.

In 1955 the Beat movement attained national prominence. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, having published Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems, was charged with printing and selling an obscene book.

Saturday night, in a small theatre on Walnut Street, Torontonians felt the pulse of Beat in their city. A power governments cannot suppress.