More fun and frolics yesterday at the final matinée of the Stoppard shows (After Magritte and The Real Inspector Hound), which was followed by a Q&A with directors Barbara Larose and Ellen Green, and cast. They were joined onstage by designers Marysia Bucholc (set) and Charmaine Huculak (costumes) – and the talkback was moderated by producers Tina McCulloch and Lynne Patterson. Another packed house, including a gang who was there to see actor Andy Fraser and the thumbs up group from meetup.com.
The subject of Barbara and Ellen co-directing came up early on: how it came about, and how it worked both practically speaking and for the actors. Barbara and Ellen have been working as a team at Alumnae for the past several years, with Lady Windermere’s Fan, Wit and most recently A Delicate Balance; prior to Hound and Magritte, Ellen was Barbara’s assistant director. Given the directorial workload of mounting two one-act plays and the growing working relationship – one that was on the same page – working as a team on the Stoppard shows made sense. And, instead of each taking one show and directing it, they co-directed both shows. Actor Patrick Brown offered an actor’s point of view on the arrangement, and said it wasn’t unlike having a single director – no conflicting guidance or confusion – and that Barbara and Ellen obviously prepped before rehearsals and were on the same page. And if something came up during rehearsal, they would briefly discuss and work something out.
Theme-wise, one audience member asked if Stoppard was doing a send-up of Magritte or giving homage. Co-director Ellen Green said both – apparently, Stoppard was a fan of Magritte, both artists enjoying mirroring and pairing. Surreal and real: going from one to the other in Magritte and from one to the other, but in reverse, in Hound.
Design-wise, the themes of mirroring and pairing came up – and that, usually, Hound is performed before Magritte. Set designer Marysia Bucholc came up with the suggestion that Magritte go first – and that the entire set be reversed for Hound, all pivoting on the hanging lamp in the centre; this created a mirrored set, with the audience seeing the set from the back (from backstage of The Mystery of Muldoon Manor, the play within Hound). Turning the set around made for a neat view of the set change – and was also very economical (as budgets are pretty tight at our little theatre). She also talked about After Magritte being Stoppard’s way of creating a real-life situation where Magritte’s odd, seemingly nonsensical composition would make sense.
We talked about Lyle, the dummy that plays the dead guy in Hound. Lyle is on loan from Soulpepper, who did Hound recently, and I finally remembered to ask how he got his name. Apparently, he was named by props designer Dorothy Wilson, who says he looks like a man she knew – a man named Lyle. The cast and crew have become quite fond of Lyle. He sat in the front row during rehearsals. And when the painting crew was in, he’d be sitting or lying down backstage – a point that could be quite creepy at times, as we’d be constantly startled at seeing him there, even though we knew he was there. Made things interesting for Marysia when she was in painting by herself.
And, as we all know, theatre is a live medium, so stuff happens. Stuff that’s not supposed to happen when it happens, or even supposed to happen at all. During yesterday’s performance, a couple of things went astray – and were mentioned during the talkback. Actor Scott Moore’s lav (critics Moon and Birdboot were mic’d so they could be heard from their places upstage centre – heard but not in a way that sounded amplified) came loose toward the end of Hound and ended up trailing behind him like a tail. He didn’t notice it till curtain call – meanwhile, all the other actors were taking care to not step on it. Actor Rob Candy mentioned how an early gunshot sound f/x made for some improvisation on Scott’s part: he drew out his death scene so he could get his last line out.
A good time was had by all – and always something new to see, especially with all the shenanigans in the wings of Muldoon Manor.
If you haven’t seen this yet – you still have a few more chances: After Magritte and The Real Inspector Hound run Wed – Sat this week. Best to book in advance, though – visit the Alumnae website for reservations info: www.alumnaetheatre.com/tickets.html
And, last but not least, here are a couple more production stills, both from The Real Inspector Hound (by Joshua Meles www.meles.ca):
MRS. DRUDGE (Brenda Somers): “Should a stranger enter our midst, which I very much doubt, I will tell him you called.” Leeman Kessler as SIMON GASCOYNE, the mysterious stranger.