Categories: Entertainment

MacEwan theatre group tackles a bold experiment

Dave Horak deserves a huge pat on the back for directing British playwright Martin Crimp’s controversial Attempts on Her Life.

A postmodernist with an “in-yer-face” approach, Crimp is noted for frugal dialogue, emotional detachment and a gloomy view of relationships. In general, his plays tend to be formless, vague, troublesome creatures.

Take a look at Attempts on Her Life opening for a five-day run at MacEwan’s Centre for the Arts and Communications on Wednesday, Nov. 28.

Plot and characters in the traditional sense are absent. There are only arrangements of dialogue. Crimp assigns no characters. In the script he designates a different speaker by inserting a dash.

With a piece that’s so fractured and far removed from the norm, Horak started the process simply by reading the script compiled with 17 unrelated vignettes strung together.

“When you read it, it is so intriguing. It’s been done all over the place and it has such a great pedigree,” said Horak, now in his ninth year as part of MacEwan’s theatre arts faculty.

He’s also quick to mention that the play is quite self-referential.

“Sometimes it’s really superficial. Sometimes you’re not sure where you’re going and then you get a little bit of information.”

There is no story to speak of, only a situation. There is an invisible character of sorts who pops up as Anne, Annie, Anya. She is a terrorist, artist, mom, prostitute and car to name some of her personalities. The audience never meets her. She is defined through hearsay, only by the words and actions of people who do not know her.

“It’s about the exploration of identity and how it is reflected in all of us,” Horak says.

Actors are constantly switching roles. For instance Meaghan McKinstry, 20, a 2010 Bellerose grad, at times takes on the role of an interrogator, at times an interogee.

A 15-year apprentice with Amanda’s Academy of Dance, she introduces some of her cool dance moves into the project.

“She’s developed characters that are sometimes silent,” Horak added.

Another St. Albert actress, Erin Hutchinson, has created a funny character that shows up in a number of scenes.

“She’s like a car salesman. She plays the role like a game show host, vacant but someone who looks good in a dress. She keeps popping up and you see how it ties in.”

And finally Sara Ormandy, another St. Albert talent from way back, has composed The Girl Next Door, a funny homemade pop tune. She also plays the piano.

In this highly collaborative project, there is a strong use of multi-media.

“We use projectors, a lot of technology, computer screens and live video streaming off iPhones and iPads. It shape-shifts all over,” Horak noted.

“It feels like you’re in an art warehouse. There are large curved screens and it goes all over the map from dark interrogation scenes to mom and dad sitting around a table talking.”

Wading into the unknown with Attempts on Her Life, Horak clearly envisions a unique experience for the audience.

“I’ve never worked on a play where I’ve been so curious about what the conversation is going to be.”


Attempts on Her Life
Grant MacEwan University Theatre Arts
Nov. 28 to Dec. 2
MacEwan Theatre Lab
Centre of the Arts and Communications
1st Floor, 10045 – 155 St.
Tickets: $10 to $12.75 Call 780-420-1757 or online at www.tixonthesquare.ca

Anna Borowiecki: Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.