Author Archives: Ron

Judith and I went on the Women’s March against Trump from the US embassy to Trafalgar Square. The streets leading to the embassy were packed, so it took a long time to get to the embassy.

When we finally reached the embassy, the march to Trafalgar square had started. We followed.

It was a very moving experience, because of the calm, purposeful determination of the women.

A vintage panto at Wilton’s Music Hall

Day one in London, Thursday December 15.

Despite potential jet lag, went to  our local theatre space, Wilton’s Musical Hall. Derelict for years, the nineteenth century musical hall has been restored not to its former glory, but to a faded and tattered state that confronts its age with honour. The play was a panto, Mother Goose, written by Roy Hudd, featuring himself as the ultimate mother of all dames, and directed by his wife, Debbie Fitcroft. It was good fun, nicely designed and costumed, tuneful and energetic. The experience was a bit odd because there were no children in the audience. The cast tried its best to persuade us that we could be children at heart, but all the “look behind you” and “oh no you can’t” conventions really require the real little creatures. Should probably have caught the matinee.  Some cast photos at various locations inside and outside the building.

The Artword Story 1: Why “Artword”?

Judith Sandiford paintings at Erindale Art Gallery

Judith Sandiford paintings at Erindale Art Gallery, 1986. “Paintings from the Virtual Museum”.

Judith and I close down Artword Artbar every August and every January. These are times to reflect, re-energize and see some shows that aren’t our own.

I also thought it would be a good time to tell you some things you may not know about Artword.

First, the name “Artword”.

“Artword” started as the name of a quarterly magazine, written “by artists for artists. (Full name “Artword Artists Forum”) Judith was editor and I was the publisher.  We published 24 issues from 1989 to 1994.

The first few issues were called “WorkSeen”. This was because Judith was an active member of Workscene Collective, which ran the Workscene Gallery.

Judith and I had a little business doing technical documentation (still do!), so we had computers, layout programs, and an actual laser printer, back when they cost $2500-5000. So we had the bat and ball, and the diamond was in our back yard.

We were fortunate to gather a team of excellent people, and we made our decisions pretty much together. Our philosophy was that decisions should be made by the people who did the work. And that was pretty much how Workscene Gallery also had been operating.

After a few issues, though, we were called to a meeting the Administrative Committee of Workscene Gallery. They had concerns. One of our best, and most reliable writers, who wrote a satirical column called “Le Flaneur” had written a phrase which they considered possibly sexist. It wasn’t, but they thought it might be.  The phrase was not “politically correct”, a new concept at that time that was just trying out its wings.  They decided that they should review the content of every issue before we published it.

None of them had written anything. None of them had sold any ads. None of them had helped painter Andy Glinski drive out to the art galleries and art stores to deliver the copies. (4,000 copies a month, free.)

So we said no. And they said, well then you have to remove all references to Workseen and change the name. We said fine. We can think of a name.

So we thought. And we came up with “ArtWork”. And our designer and layout person, sculptor Lynn Campbell, designed a logo. ArtWork.

It didn’t seem quite right. Somebody thought it was too “artist as worker”, too agitprop. But for me, the issue was the letter K. It was a fierce letter, arms and legs sticking forward, a bristling letter. How about (I suggested) the letter D. Artword. Combining Art and Words. And it required minimal redesign of the logo.

So Artword it was. Since then, everything that Judith and I have done has been called Artword. When we started our theatre in Toronto, it was Artword Theatre. When we set up our not-for-profit, it was Artword Cultural Projects.

And when we came to Hamilton looking to create a theatre, and decided instead to buy a Portuguese sports bar and turn it into a cultural oasis, we called it Artword Artbar. (World famous for its Artword Artbar Artbeer).

The name Artword turned out to be a bit problematic. People have trouble reading it and understanding it. The say Artworld or Artwood or Atword or Atwood or (indeed) Artwork. But we have persisted. Artword it remains.

Photos from Once I Lived in the Box

Some photos taken last night (February 4, 2016) of Learie Mc Nicolls’ Once I lived in the Box, at Artword Artbar.

Dancers: Angelo Del Franco, Sharon Harvey, Tanis Macarthur and Learie Mc Nicolls. Music by Edgardo Moreno and lighting by Judith Sandiford.

One more performance, tonight February 5, 2016, at 8 pm.

 

 

Building Dance in Hamilton

Rehearsal photo, "Once I lived in the Box", L to R: Angela Del Franco, Tanis Sydney Macarthur, Sharon Harvey

Rehearsal photo, “Once I lived in the Box”, L to R: Angela Del Franco, Tanis Sydney Macarthur, Sharon Harvey

Artword is presenting Once I Lived in the Box by Learie Mc Nicolls February 3 – 5. I know Learie’s work, and I know the dancers (Angela Del Franco, Tanis Macarthur and Sharon Harvey). I know Judith Sandiford very well, who is directing and designing the lighting that throws those beautiful shadows you see in the photo. This will be a very fine piece of dance drama.

There is hardly any contemporary dance in Hamilton yet. Will people come? There is a fundamental principle in entertainment: people go to what they know.

When Learie came from Toronto to Hamilton, he asked “where is the dance?” I told him it was up to us to build it. Learie did two theatre/ spoken word pieces that incorporated dance: Resurrection at The Pearl Company and Transformation at Artword in the Fringe.

Now this is the big step. This is a full-length dance piece, choreographed by Learie with three highly skilled professional dancers, and of course Learie himself. It has a powerful theme, delivered through intense physical movement.

There are years (decades!) of training, and months of rehearsal behind what you see on the stage. Learie Mc Nicolls has an international reputation. This is a stunning show. Come and see it!

 

 

 

Stratford-Upon-Avon: Othello

Shakespeare's funerary monument, Holy Trinity Church.

Shakespeare’s funerary monument, Holy Trinity Church.

We had seen a remarkable Othello two years ago at the National Theatre, with Adrian Lester as Othello and Rory Kinnear as Iago, set in a contemporary military garrison resembling those in Iraq or Afghanistan. We almost decided to skip Othello this time, so as not to overlay our memories of that production.

It’s a good thing we didn’t skip it. This Othello, wonderfully acted in an ensemble mode, proved again the limitless facets in Shakepeare’s enigmatic masterpiece. The revelation here was the relationship between Othello and Iago, brought forward by casting a black actor as Iago. Not just any actor, but the effervescent and charismatic Lucian Msamati, who might have stolen the show away if Hugh Quarshie had not radiated such controlled and thoughtful power.

When Iago is white, Othello is entirely isolated, and it is no surprise to us that Iago plots against him. When he is black, suddenly we see Iago as Othello’s trusted subordinate, someone who stands with him, ready to carry out his wishes and provide him with information. When he is passed over, his loyal service unrecognized, he turns his ingenuity toward revenge. Othello continues to trust him, because Iago is his bridge to a world he only partly understands. Msamati’s Iago, always scheming and arranging, is busy spinning his spider webs, until finally he himself is caught.

Joanna Vanderham’s Desdemona deserves mention. There is no trace of victim-hood in her characterization. She is simply a young woman who follows her impulses without guile, and expects that the world will be as straightforward as she. A most refreshing take.

Grimeborn: Alternative Opera at the Arcola Theatre

The bar at Arcola Theatre

The bar at Arcola Theatre, an exellent place for a glass of wine before the show. (You can take it in with you.)

We love the Arcola Theatre, London’s most vibrant and ambitious alternative theatre. It’s up in Dalston, a maelstrom of multicultural life, once an area of dubious repute, but now verging on getting to be maybe nearly (dare I say the word?) trendy. Every summer, for those of us who can’t afford the Glyndebourne Festival, it hosts the Grimeborne Festival of Alternative Opera, where tiny, impoverished opera companies present glorious music.

Wednesday’s program was called The Clown of Clowns, consisting of two works: Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and Sideshows, by Leo Geyer. The presenting companies were Constella Ballet & Orchestra in collaboration with Khymerikal. The program points out that “many of the musicians involved in this production are members of both ensembles”. Continue reading

“The Beaux’ Stratagem” at the National Theatre

National Theatre, London

National Theatre, London

“The Beaux’ Stratagem” is usually thought of as a late example of Restoration Comedy, and that’s how I was thinking of it as we entered the Olivier. I didn’t know the play, but I was ready for a saucy, boisterous romp. It took a little while before I adjusted to its more sedate rhythm and more polite treatment of sexual relations. It was, after all, written in 1707, at the cusp of the Restoration style and the more sedate (and forgettable) sentimental comedy of the 18th century.

At the interval, I said to Judith “I’m not sure what I’m seeing”. This, by the way, is not a bad thing. I love being made to stretch.

Continue reading

“A Number” at the Young Vic

Opera Singer Busking at Blackfriars Bridge

Opera Singer Busking at Blackfriars Bridge

The Young Vic is just a stroll east from the Old Vic, along the street called The Cut. (The two theatres have no connection with each other, by the way.) We like the Young Vic very well, for its adventurous programming and its pleasant and affordable cafe. So it was that on Wednesday following our arrival, having booked tickets for The Beaux’ Stratagem at The National Theatre that evening, we sauntered down The Cut to see what matinees were on offer at the Young Vic. Continue reading