On Friday, Nov. 28, a group of interested theatre-goers collected in the Sanctuary Theatre uptown on Germain Street to watch the performance of Rougher Magic, a play by UNBSJ’s own Robert Moore.
Before opening the doors to the theatre, the crowd bustled together out of the cold and chatted amongst one another. The staff were very personable and friendly, which kept the atmosphere fun, warm, and comfortable.
Once the doors opened, everyone entered the theatre. The theatre was arranged in a circle with two rows, with a small space between the top, bottom, left and right, for the actors to come and go from the stage.
Upon beginning the play, the director stated that those sitting in the front row should be wary to keep their feet out of the way, lest they be “acted on”—I soon found out how exciting it was to be part of that first row.
Based off Shakespeare’s comedy The Tempest, the play is subtitled as “A Cubist Shakespeare,” broken up and abstracted, leaving the objects and characters “not autonomous, discrete, coherent entities, but multiple, incomplete, and contradictory.” However, even without knowledge of The Tempest (which is recommended), the play was still an extraordinary experience.
The first half of the play lasted 75 minutes, full of humour and crowd interaction (actors asking questions, staring intently into the audience, sitting in empty seats next to us), and utilizing the whole room and audience as part of the set.
Following the first half, there was then a ten minute intermission, and the final act, lasting approximately 35 minutes. This part of the play was much more intense and dark, with less interaction with the audience and more between actors.
The actors in Rougher Magic include John Ball as Prospero, Michael Holmes-Lauder as Ariel, Elizabeth Goodyear, Julie MacDonald, and Clarissa Hurley as Miranda 1 through 3 respectively, Scott Shannon as Caliban, and Ian Murphy as Ferdinand. The play is directed by Scott Shannon, and written, of course, by Robert Moore.
After the show, Moore stated that he “was thrilled with the turnout.” The playwright continued on to say, “[Rougher Magic] meets the definition of alternative theatre which effectively translate into ‘difficult’ for audiences whose acquaintance with live theatre begins and (often) ends with musicals”, and thought “the cast did an admirable job with a challenging script, one that put a high premium on the capacity to switch effortlessly between comic and tragic elements. I admired their courage, to be honest; the rewards of putting this kind of play in front of an audience are not the usual kind.”
However, as part of the audience, it seemed like they reacted fantastically, laughing and applauding along with the actors and interacting quite willingly with them. The energy was high and cheerful through the night.
Another audience member, Kelli Gunn, says that the play was “surprising, hilarious, terrifying, intense and very, very sexy.”
Moore then said that, “The play has been variously performed across the country for about 25 years (it got its start at the Edmonton Fringe) and I’ve seen several productions, a few of which I have directed myself, and this is one of the strongest yet. I particularly liked the way this one refused to rely on the usual technical resources of theatre (e.g., special sound and lighting), proving the Shakespearean maxim that all you really need for theatre is ‘a few boards and a passion.’”
Considering the reception of Rougher Magic, there is truth behind those words, indeed.