Necessary Angel productions present Andromache as part of this year’s Luminato Festival in Toronto directed by Graham McLaren collaborating with writer Evie Christie held at The Theatre Centre until June 19.
I love what’s happening with theatre these days. It’s become so much more than what I soaked up in my final high school years picking apart the Stanislavski method. The experience for the audience has grown beyond watching a show without a TV screen.
In my recent experience the audience bears witness and testament for the lead throughout her journey; the audience is asked to deliver a eulogy in memoriam to a fading generation. In the case of Necessary Angel’s Andromache, the audience is right up on stage, a mere few feet from the performers, sharing in every nuance of gut-wrenching emotion until the very end. It doesn’t get any better than this.
When I arrived at the Theatre Centre and joined the line outside, we were escorted down into the basement where we were met with a cacophony of sound – chopper blades, gun fire, war cries, and current music (the uncensored version of Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You”).
We enter into a war bunker with soldiers carrying AKs acting as ushers leading us to our seats (and demanding us turn off our f*cking cell phones) that surround a central platform that houses a really disgusting toilet, an equally disgusting sink, single bed, and TV screens where soldiers are playing first-person shooters. Bare bulbs around the stage serve as gritty almost visually painful lighting.
And then the show begins. This performance is a modern take on French playwright Jean Racine’s Andromaque which debuted in 1667 and was inspired by Euripedes’ play Andromache. This current version is a collaborative effort between director Graham McLaren and writer Evie Christie to take the story and place it into the lives of American soldiers amidst the sand and foreign struggles.
At the end of the war, the new leader Pyrrhus has fallen for his hostage, the newly widowed Andromache, and demands that she give herself to him to save her son. Although this struggle is the focus of the show, what really captures the audience is the story of secondary characters Hermione and Orestes and what they’re asked to sacrifice in the name of love.
The show is gritty, visceral, raw, shocking and at times painful to watch with scenes depicting sexual violence. It is not a show meant for everyone. Since the audience is so much closer to the story playing before them, it carries the rawness that much further. When the anger and rage ripping through Orestes or Pyrrhus reaches that explosive point, you feel it; you flinch inwardly in a defensive manner. As the performers enter and exit the stage, you feel the tense air shift as they move past.
The dialogue is still fairly dated aside from references to modern events. The show is monologue heavy to portray the internal struggles but with the current setting the dated language stood out. During an intense argument with Pyrrhus and Hermione, he waits for her to finish berating him verbally and physically, stirring in his own rage, before he finally unleashes on her. Most people wouldn’t wait to defend themselves and fire their own attack. Or maybe that’s just me.
It is definitely worth checking this show out, if you are not of the faint of heart. If you’re ready for a performance that is beautiful in its ugliness, a show that will shake you to the core, Andromache is not to be missed.
– Andromache is playing until Sunday, June 19 as part of the Luminato Festival
– Performances are at 7:30 pm
– Tickets are $51.50 each and are available online, by phone at 416-368-4TIX (4849), or at the box office located at David Pecaut Square.
– Performances are held at The Theatre Centre at 1087 Queen Street West (Queen and Dovercourt)
Photo of Steven McCarthy and Christine Horne by Michael Cooper