The National Arts centre presents 7 Important Things
a STO Union (Ottawa) production
in co-production with the NAC English Theatre
in Association with WAC (Wakefield Art Collective)
Written and directed by Nadia Ross (Wakefield) in collaboration with George Acheson
With George Acheson and Nadia Ross
Lighting Design by Steve Lucas
Video Projections by W.A.C. (Wakefield Art Collective)
Technical Director and artistic collaborator Rob Scott
Set design by Barry Padolsky
Costume Design by Andy Tait
Papier -mache puppet by Rick Riza
Richard Desrosiers Stage Manager
Wakefield Art Collective production support
Ruthann Drummond assistant lighting design
STO Union Nadia Ross, Artistic Director
Performance viewed May 12, 2 pm NAC Studio
Running time: sixty-three minutes.
We expect to see experiments in the NAC Studio; we got one. It started by having the audience proceed downstairs from the usual lineup (all plays in the Studio are general admission) enter through the stage instead of from the usual back of the house. As one of the first to enter, I had a strange feeling of disorientation: we entered a virtually empty stage from upstage centre, and walked across it to our seats. Okay, I thought: the experiment begins. Then we all sat and watched the rest of the members of the audience come in, as a piece of performance art. I thought the usher, in her blouse, blazer, grey skirt and black leotards was the most interesting aspect of the whole thing, smiling and ushering. I wonder if she got Equity scale for that. (I suppose I should add twenty minutes to the performance length for that rollicking time.) But all of this came to nought: it was never referred to in the play.
The two players entered as we had, and as the lights dimmed, rolled things around and got the stage set up. The set consisted of two rolling chairs, a rolling table with a projector on it, another table with a double-deck tape cassette player on it, a chair upstage, and a roll of white cloth that descended from the gods to be pulled and laid out, and formed the most prominent visual aspect of the set.
The action consisted of three (although I recall four were announced) timed conversations between the two players, alternating with vignettes. The conversations included a listing of Georges’s seven important things, although that was cut off by the timer at six. Someone asked me later what they were, and I have to admit I could not and still cannot remember any of them. The play is about the generation of post-war two kids, of whom George (playing himself) purports to be one. The story is that they decided that their fathers who fought World War Two, and apparently said it was a Good War, didn’t know what they were talking about, so they rejected everything their fathers had fought for, including the economy, steady jobs, our system of government, morality, marriage, hope in the future, and family life, and became long-haired hippies, punks, and drug addicts. So it’s tell and show theatre. How or if George overcame his heroin addiction was left up for grabs.
One idea that George discussed that I certainly bought into was that it has become embarrassing when anyone says something serious in public, that we are a society of the superficial cynics, in which the put-down is a common tension reliever.
I was impressed by the technical ingenuity of the production. Both actors were miked, and that is strange in such an intimate space; however, Ms Ross’ voice was processed so that she could become George’s father, an eight-year-old girl, an eighteen-year-old woman, without any change on her part. The projections of photos apparently from George’s actual life, sometimes with a moving projector, on various held cards and screens, all provided visual variety. The costumes had little somewhat bizarre distant echoes of punk: Ms Ross wore a maton-like belted grey (aubergine?) institutional take-off on a nurse’s or prison matron’s uniform with dark heavy laced punk-style calf-high boots; Mr. Acheson wore a white, tail out shirt and dark baggy trousers. Acheson also sported a soft version of the remains of a spiked punk hairstyle.
Yes, this is a play of ideas. It does not elicit emotions; it does not require you to like or dislike any of the characters, and that is a problem — we have nobody to identify with, nothing to feel. Ms Ross played a more or less neutral, expressionless interviewer; Mr. Acheson apparently played himself, rather clinically. I thought he had difficulty with his lines, as there were often stammerings or strange pace-killing pauses in his side of the dialogue.
I came away from the play feeling pretty untouched by it. It presented a theory to explain the disenchantment of a self-absorbed generation. Food for thought, I suppose, but nothing to become wrapped up in. These two people wrote this play; the program notes notwithstanding, I am not sure why.
A group of us started talking about the play in the lobby afterwards. The consensus seemed to be that just when it was starting to become interesting, it was over. The conversation soon turned to duplicate bridge.
Again, a play that ran slightly over one hour. Perhaps such brevity is slightly less unacceptable in the NAC Studio than in the NAC Theatre; however, in this case, the play felt shallow; it needed a second act to allow for us to like the characters, or become emotionally involved in the action, or expand of why we were given such a strange pre-play entrance, or at least to give us the seventh important idea.