The production, which was developed in Saskatoon, was inspired by Oscar Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Gray. Director Natasha Martina, a professor of movement and acting at the U of S, gathered together a group of creative and adventurous students to develop a piece based upon the disintegration of moral standards in exchange for physical beauty.
The company met for numerous brainstorming sessions and physical workshops to find a story they wanted to tell within the broad scope of the topic.
Actress and ensemble member Janessa Johnsrude explains the variety of the themes: “Fame. Obsession. Desire. Satisfaction. Gratification.”
With the aid and expertise of playwright Marcus Goodwin they were able to whittle everything down into a defined, contemporary story. A young woman, dissatisfied with her life, becomes seduced and eventually overpowered by advertisements. She chooses to undertake massive plastic surgery and learns a powerful lesson about the necessity of inner beauty.
While Johnsrude acknowledges that this tale has been told before, she explains that Ground Cover Theatre is taking a very different approach.
“We exaggerate it. We explore it in a dreamlike, dysmorphic state,” described Johnsrude. “It’s fantastical.”
For close to two years, the ensemble has been developing a physical score to heighten the piece.
“It’s not dance. We’re manipulating movement within time and space to convey things without saying them.”
This approach allows them to confront their grim topic with a sense of humour.
“It can’t all be ghoulish nightmare,” proclaims Johnsrude. “This woman’s life — this woman’s experience — parts of it are dark, parts of it are funny.”
The show also includes an impressive number of technical and multi-media aspects.
“It’s not conventional. It contains a wide spectrum of visual displays,” said Johnsrude.
This is something that Johnsrude believes will please younger audiences. “It will be stimulating for students to see something different.”
Another draw for the campus crowd is the cast. On stage Johnsrude is accompanied by Jacklyn Green, Jenna-Lee Hyde, Matt Keyes, Caitlin Vancoughnet and Darren Zimmer, all current students or alumni of the U of S.
“It’s locally developed talent,” says Johnsrude.
And we all know it’s important to support local.
photo Greg Reese