||"Life is not a brief candle. It is a splendid torch that I want to make burn as brightly as possible before handing on to future generations."
-- George Bernard Shaw
Gwyneth Baillie & Jane Miller
|Shaking the Foundations|
|Devised and Directed by Bryden Macdonald|
|Starring Jane Miller, Paula Wolfson, Astrid Van Wieren, Gwyneth Baillie, Tanya Rich|
|Musical Director: Holly Arsenault|
|Played at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre until Oct. 31, 1999|
|Review by Michael Cottrell|
The lights dim and a clear crisp, sultry voice sings out from the shadows... I was hooked.
I must confess, I am not a Rough Trade enthusiast. I didn't follow Carole Pope or Kevan Staples while I was growing up. OK, OK, I was trying to be one of those good little boys back then, trying to get to god knows where, and Rough Trade was not something good boys or good girls listened to.
So rushing off from work to go to Buddies in Bad Times Theatre's opening production of "Shaking the Foundations" was not something high on my "gotta do" list. It is billed as "Bryden Macdonald's tribute to national music legends Rough Trade and Canada's pissed-off chick Carole Pope. Shaking the Foundations pares down the tunes to their bare essentials, providing audiences with a completely unique spin..." I check the time and pour myself into my appointed seat in the cabaret, thinking to myself it's Carole Pope music, they are going to be screaming and yelling, I am bone tired and I have a headache. Leaning to my boyfriend in my most haught theatre voice I exclaim about the stage, "Using the stairs in this place is so passé!"
Shaking the Foundations is the iconization of Carole Pope's legendary work. Pope herself laughs about this and says, "she has never left." After the breakup of Rough Trade in the '80s, Pope left Canada but has continued working from Los Angeles. She says, "LA is boring enough that I have time to work on my memoirs ‘Anti-Diva,' which will be published in the new year."
The lights dim and a clear crisp, sultry voice sings out from the shadows... I was hooked. Shaking the Foundations is nothing, absolutely nothing of what I expected. It is not a biography of Carole Pope. It is music, pure music. MacDonald has taken Pope's lyrics and placed them in a jazz setting and believe me, it works. Pope's lyrical skills and talent stand out and continues to shake the foundations.
Five women and a piano player; Talluhlah's Cabaret is transformed into a intimate, sensual and sexually charged space and the show doesn't let up. Shaking the Foundations lets the audience hear the mastery and genius of Pope and Staples' writing. Rough Trade was described as being before its time and this production hits home how challenging Pope was -- or rather, is.
I have seen a lot of theatre in Toronto. I have seen good, bad and indifferent theatre, and Shaking the Foundations is a superb production. The cast of Jane Miller, Paula Wolfson, Astrid Van Wieren, Gwyneth Baillie, Tanya Rich and Holly Arsenault combine young talent with seasoned performers, and they work. Never have I experienced such spine-tingling voices in solo or in harmony -- and the bodies, you have to see the bodies and choreography. You have to more than see, you experience.
Each and every actor is strong and present in voice. There is no talking, this is an evening of music and interpretation. [Boyfriend insists there is one spoken piece. Who's right?]
My tired body was quickly tantalized and awakened, I leaned over to the boyfriend and whispered, "oh she is hot". But I have to mention my favourite, Gwyneth Baillie, yes the same Gwyneth who just released her new pop CD, "Wishing Well", and shamelessly plugged it in the program. This actor in this piece is over the top. Boyfriend said , "she was Ab Fab's Bubbles gone bad." I said, "she was a Parkdale crack whore." She is raw and real.
Shaking the Foundations creates an atmosphere. It is charged, it is sexually ambiguous, it is gay, it is straight, it is lesbian, it is diverse. Shaking the Foundations captures the rawness of Carole Pope and it works. I also must take back my comment said in my "haught" theatre voice, they make great use of all the space -- and remember to watch the choreography on the stairs. I thought boyfriend was loving me up in the cabaret when he was trying to get my attention off Gwyneth and look at the other women on the stairs ... "wet".
Buddies in Bad Times theatre opened its season with a bang. Shaking the Foundations is a must-see and it even made this "good boy" want to find some "rough trade" with a newfound appreciation for Carole Pope and Kevan Staples.
Maybe I will venture out to see Carole Pope performing Saturday October 9 at Lee's Palace.
June 26, 2000: At Toronto's Dora Mavor Moore Awards, Shaking the Foundations' Paula Wolfson won for outstanding female performance in a musical. We knew someone from that talented production had to win!
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