The lead line in the Kingston Kick and Push Festival programme booklet says “This will be no ordinary theatre festival…” They were right! I was excited earlier this year to see that Kingston was to host a summer festival of five theatre pieces scattered I both time and venue around the downtown core. I vowed to see them all and this weekend I fulfilled my goal.
All of the theatrical events (not quite right to call them all plays) had interesting production features and all told stories in varied ways.
A Chorus Line is a fairly typical Broadway-type musical that lends itself well to be presented by young aspiring singers and dancers. I have always enjoyed the productions mounted by Blue Canoe, the company that put this show on at the Grand Theatre in mid-July and this was no exception. Lots of enthusiastic talented young folks giving a polished set of personal vignettes as they audition for a dancing role in a show. A most enjoyable evening.
Shipwrecked is a three-actor tall-tale about an adventurous life on the high seas. I really liked the imaginative presentation that immersed the audience in the story. The audience was literally washed over by a huge wave, flooded with ping-pong ball pearls, taken to meet south seas natives and introduced to a very friendly dog named Hugo. Kudos to Brett Christopher who directed this show for his creativity and to the small cast that included my friend Jacob James who returned home to Kingston for this show. A delight. Autoshow was a series of ten minute short plays that happened in and around cars in Market Square. I particularly like the one called Totally Nana’s Ride that happened by an old Dodge parked beside the Bank of Montreal. Some of these playlets were better written than others. Three of them ended with death, which was a bit of a downer. The street noise sometimes made it hard to hear the dialogue sometimes. Some of the plays actually had one or two people get right into the car where the action was happening. At one point a homeless woman passing across the square wandered into the middle of the action and for a couple of minutes actually joined our small audience group to peer into the back of the car where the action was happening. This, of course, added to the whole presentation, rather than take from it.
Tall Ghosts and Bad Weather is a play with some historical background and was presented after dark outside in the graveyard beside St Paul’s Church on Queen Street – the same graveyard where Molly Brant is buried. It was a curious mix of modern day and a hundred years ago, all intricately entwined as actors from both vintages came in and out of the mix, sometimes almost bumping into each other as they moved past one another, seemingly oblivious to the presence of each other. The atmosphere was great and the actors did a good job of presenting the story. A particular credit to them was that, despite three of them being in Autoshow, which I had seen an hour earlier, I did not recognize them in their transformed characters in the graveyard. The Stone Cellar group that produced this play is a local troupe that specializes in historical dramas. Will look for more from them.
My favorite, however, was Ambrose, a personal journey through nooks and crannies inside and outside the Grand Theatre, once again with a series of vignettes all revolving around the theatre magnate Ambrose Small, who disappeared mysteriously in 1919. His ghost, it is said, still haunts the theatres he owned, one of them being the Kingston Grand. In this theatre adventure, audience was taken one at a time through one of two tracks of stories. I spent ten minutes alone with a psychiatrist, lying on a couch and answering questions about my deepest secrets, had a drink at an abandoned bar in the lobby with a sexy distraught woman who managed the theatre, read love letters with one of Ambrose Small’s showgirl paramours, watched as a young masked woman talked with me about taking risks then proceeded to scale part of the wall inside the theatre, huddled under a blanket with a slightly crazy recluse in a creepy dark machine room, and got tied up by three young phantoms after climbing down a fire escape into the alleyway outside the theatre. Could you ask for more in an interactive theatrical production? I understand that some folks actually bailed out at some points, finding the personal involvement too intense. But if you were willing to immerse yourself in the improv nature of this show it became just so much fun.
Earlier in the summer I also enjoyed the Salon Theatre’s Walking in John A’s Footsteps that runs twice daily downtown throughout the summer.
I was disappointed to see the audiences for these many fine productions so small despite the most expensive ticket being $25. How can we expect to have this wonderful, creative, immersive theatre in our community if we don’t support it. I didn’t see anyone I knew in the audience any of the five nights I attended the different shows. Where were you?
With photos shamelessly lifted from the Kick and Push Facebook page!