Zuppa Circus Theatre/ Rumble's Festival of Emerging Arts

Penny Dreadful

Dates and Venue 25 – 29 March 20088 @ 8pm | Performance Works, Granville Island, Vancouver

Reviewer Susan Peake

A damp, dark, dreary Vancouver evening was the perfect accompaniment to the opening night of the somewhat disturbing plot that was unfolded on the audience at Performance Works on Tuesday past.

Penny Dreadful – and the name alone should conjure up melodrama – is one of three offerings by Tremors: Rumble’s Festival of Emerging Arts. It is a Zuppa Circus Theatre Collective Creation – a theatre ensemble company that originated in Halifax back in the late 90s and is known for its unique, cutting-edge, and often outrageous collaborative style.

Directed by Alex Mclean, the story takes place in the mid-nineteenth century at an estate in Halifax. Adelaide (played by Susan Leblanc-Crawford) is a mentally challenged, heavy-drinking maidservant with designs on Charlie (played by Ben Stone), the groundskeeper.

The plot thickens when the estate owner’s wayward son, Harry (played by Stewart Legere) returns from his world travels and a love triangle of sorts emerges. Music, props, and lots of mousetraps are used in innovative ways to create atmosphere and to mark the importance of some of the twists and turns in the plot. Unfortunately, a number of these twists and turns were lost on me, and I struggled to follow the often loose story line.

All three actors gave incredibly strong theatrical performances, and it's no surprise to learn that Leblanc-Crawford and Stone have been working together for the better part of the last ten years.

Their timing on stage and in and around the audience worked well to create a tightly flowing visual experience. Cellist, Claire Gallant, who was cleverly incorporated into the performance, played a score by David Christensen and Jason MacIsaac, who are from The Heavy Blinkers, a popular East Coast orchestral pop ensemble.

It is always a pleasure to experience talent from across Canada. Thanks to Rumble Productions we are given the opportunity to appreciate the creative energies of this talented theatrical Maritime troupe.

© 2008 Susan Peake