Emilia Di Luca
As I shuffle into the Factory Studio Theatre, drinks on the lounge bar and ukuleles on the prop table sandwich me. Am I in the wrong place? Apparently not since an usher takes my ticket. To my surprise, spectators and actors enter and exit the same way. Before house lights dim, A Beautiful View implicates the audience—and it does so, wonderfully.
After a successful run in Germany, Volcano Theatre presents Daniel MacIvor’s A Beautiful View under the direction of Ross Manson, Volcano’s Artistic Director. Volcano injects its experimental, modern flavour into this Canadian classic about the essence of friendship.
L (Amy Rutherford) and M (Becky Johnson) meet while buying camping gear. After an awkward encounter and a romantic night together, the women strike a lasting friendship that spans for many years until they reach their deaths and see “a beautiful view.” Their journey as friends explores the magnetism that binds souls and the society that interrupts soul mates. More importantly, the play implicates the audience in this tension-filled friendship.
By the end, the audience invests as much thought into L and M’s friendship as L and M do. Why? Because the women don’t just show their story, they tell it to the audience directly. A Beautiful View is not only about the strength of friendship, but also the power of storytelling.
Volcano’s experimental style reveals itself in Manson’s staging. In Brechtian fashion, Manson requires the audience to pass the prop table and cross the stage to find seats. The traverse stage forces the audience to see each other from across the performance space, especially when L and M shine their flashlights on the audience.
Even without flashlights, Johnson and Rutherford involve the audience. They talk to the audience. They look at the audience. Most importantly, their stellar performances grip our hearts and squeeze out sympathy. Suddenly, we feel an attachment to this odd pair, no matter how uncomfortable we are with their romantic encounters or tragic deaths.
Between dramatic scenes, Krister Schuchardt’s sound and Rebecca Picherack’s lighting design flood the stage as the actors perform interpretive dances. Contrasting realistic moments, the dances work the audience members’ minds; they asks the audience to make sense of these movements that translate the unspoken tensions into bursts of energy. Cleverly, the stylized movement also expresses the passing of time between friends. It is as though someone pressed fast-forward on L and M’s lives.
A Beautiful View befriends you as soon you enter. Once you get settled, it asks the heavy questions: what is a soul mate? What would you do when you find one?
A Beautiful View runs at the Factory Studio Theatre until March 9th. Tickets are available by phone at 416-504-9971 or online at http://www.factorytheatre.ca/box-office/tickets/.
photo credit: Hilda Lobinger