This past week, I was honoured to attend the latest TACTICS Theatre presentation of Shorelines.
This is my first time in the sleek new space that the University of Ottawa’s Theatre Department shares with The Ottawa Art Gallery. LabO is bright and beautiful. I’m surprised and delighted to be welcomed and guided to the theatre by the multi-award-winning playwright herself, Mishka Lavigne, along with the play’s talented director, Nicholas Leno.
The theatre is arranged in a thrust-configuration and according to the director during the post-show talk-back, “it couldn’t have been any other way.” I have to agree that the configuration immerses the audience in the setting of the story: the bottom of an abandoned pool. Throughout the piece, I’m awed by the design elements. The effective simplicity of Brian Smith’s set design, the beauty of Tristan-Olivier Breiding’s lighting, Ali Berkok’s ever-present, haunting soundscape and Hannah Ferguson’s gorgeous costumes.
What’s more impressive is how integrated all of these elements are. There are what appear to be small aquariums, filtering water, at the front of the stage, which work to enhance both the sound and lighting of the play. The light shines through the water, creating the rippling effect of waves on the white tarps which serve as a backdrop, while the movement of the water creates a maritime soundscape that underscores the entire show.
Much of the story is told through monologue and there is a lovely musicality to Lavigne’s text, though it sometimes feels more literary than theatrical. That being said, the actors Cara Pantalone and Vanessa Onukagha, who have the bulk of these poetic monologues, deliver them with remarkable fluidity. For me though, the piece really comes to life in the scenes with dialogue. That’s when the story feels immediate and important, when I find myself engrossed in the action.
Overall, Shorelines is a timely tale of the devastating human impacts of climate change which hits very close to home. The highly-talented all-Ottawa cast and crew should be very proud of this production.
Written by: JB for Covert Ottawa Guy