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October 9, 2017 | by  | in Theatre |
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Tales from the Spice Rack: 2017 THEA 304 Directing paper presentations

Tales from the Spice Rack is a collection of ten minute performances of published plays, either taken in their entirety or as extracts from longer works. The 18 fragrant pieces were divided into two seasons, “Salt and “Pepper, alternately performed over four nights. We question why “Salt” and “Pepper” were deemed the most apt of flavourists, but will concede that Paprika and Basil sounds more like a folk comedy duo than is probably desirable. The 18 directors did far more than point and yell at their actors; they sprayed their collective and individual stank over the entire process: casting, sourcing, lighting, sound, stage management, production management, publicity, the whole kit and caboodle — and kudos to them for making it through the process and retaining all their hair.

We attended the two final showings of Tales from the Spice Rack — a delightfully applicable metaphor, given one’s inability to anticipate whether the next piece would be sombre or uproariously funny: as with life, this show reminds us that “you never know what you’re gonna get,” and, undoubtedly, there were some pieces that served more punch and flavour than others.

Salt had mostly warm shows, almost all involving an exploration of love. The most serious and intense was “Night Bird” directed by Zac Tanner, which had a clever use of two laptop screens showing the inner expressions and feelings of the characters onstage. Though we were unable to see Isadora Lao’s piece, “A Mustache and a Mattress”, due to a scheduling conflict with one of her actors, we commend her decision to stick to her proverbial guns and put on only the one showing, rather than recasting — making her piece even stronger. Our personal favourites of the season would have to be “Swimming in the Shallows” directed by Izabelle Brown, and “Words, Words, Words” directed by Adam Hart. Both pieces had an uplifting energy that infected the audience, and the respective actors brought engrossingly bizarre and amusing performances, especially Nick, who has just fallen in love in Brown’s piece. Not to mention the entire anthropomorphic monkey cast of Hart’s piece. Monkeys? Yes, you read that correctly, with protruding ears, hairy knuckles, and everything! It was great.

Pepper offered a more diverse flavour profile. “The Actor’s Nightmare”, directed by Léon Bristow, was a delightfully self-aware opening to the night, if slightly lacking in pacing. We are of the opinion that the season might have been more impactfully concluded with the other quirky, meta-theatrical performance “Smoke Screens”, directed by Lilia Askew, which was simultaneously high-brow and high energy. Two other standouts from the evening: Beth Taylor’s take on “Confessions of a Chocoholic” with its cushy, multi-faceted set — made captivating by the returning talent Kate Anderson — and the strong performance and even stronger illustrated overhead projections of Martin McDonagh’s version of “The Pillowman”.

Putting on a collaborative show of this magnitude, both as a budding director AND as a part of the production team, ALL THE WHILE knee deep in various other dismal university/life obligations, is no easy feat. To the directors and cast of Tales from the Spice Rack, we have only this left to say: ya done good, and we look forward to seeing where you go from here.

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