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Friday, January 14, 2011

The Friday Five, January 14, 2011

The magnificent Joan Orenstein (centre) with Helen Taylor and Aidan Devine in Centaur's production of Juno and the Paycock (photo courtesy of Centaur)

Five (Immediately) Memorable Performances

by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

Today we're starting a new weekly feature at CharPo, inspired by the popularity of David Allan King's list, Ten Things Artists Are Sure They Know About Critics and my own list Five (Immediately) Memorable Shows. Each week we'll give you a list of five things; the intent is to provoke discussion or merely be useful. Enjoy (and comment)!

Joan Orenstein (pictured above), People Are Living There, Centaur, 1975. It was my first year as a Centaur subscriber and it wasn't a great year for the old house until this Fugard play in which Orenstein created an indelible memory as a bath-robed, shambling landlady of a flophouse. She was sad, funny and gorgeous. She would dominate Centaur's stage once again, decades later, in Stone Angel.

Jean Archambault, Hosanna, 1978, Festival Lennoxville. I was in Lennoxville negotiating a production of my play and got passes to everything in the fest but this is not only the performance I most remember, it is also one I will never forget. Archambault had created this role in French but the second language did not seem to hinder his subtle, heart-breaking performance as the bitchy but ultimately tragic transvestite. English would not impede him in his performance in the creation of Balconville either. 

Joanna Noyes, Frankie and Johnny at the Claire de lune, 1991, Bulldog Productions. This story of two strangers who find true love via a one night stand is splendid enough, but Joanna Noyes, playing the thankless role of a woman who finds her silly, goofy, funny Prince Charming, actually anchored the play. Noyes gave a subtle, and brave (full nudity!) rendition; the memory of it erases traces of the very bland film made of the play.

France Rolland, The Fairies are Thirsty, Fringe, 1993 / Diana Donnelly, Romeo and Juliet, Repercussion, 2000 / Alison Darcy, girls! girls! girls!, Fringe, 2000 
In my life as a critic I've been very lucky but never felt luckier then when I was there for the start of these three brilliant careers. Each performance had me saying both, "Who the hell is that?" and, "This person is going to have a great future!" Rolland was, simply, electric. Donnelly gave us a Juliet that was funny and goofy and teenaged and just right. Darcy was so centred and intelligent I just knew she would also be a theatrical leader. Rolland recently blew everyone away in Medea; Donnelly wows them everywhere, but is a star at Shaw; and Darcy directs, acts and astounds. 


  1. OMG!! I remember so well that production of Hosanna. It was and will always remain one of the highlights of my theatre-going experience! Jean Archambault was my hero and my inspiration, and I even used to do one of his famous speeches from Hosanna as a monologue ( a woman playing a man playing a woman!!) It felt like a great fit for me and I adored it so, and I can still recite it today! I'll never forget when I went on to Graduate Studies in Theatre, I auditioned for NYU with it, and 2 of the women on the panel were blown away, and the very conservative man on the panel was just confused and a little shocked! He couldn't figure out if I was a woman or a man or what the hell, and the women just told him to shut up! I got accepted...but turned it down...too strait-laced for me! Thanks for highlighting that performance.

  2. Memorable performance for me too. Nothing as exciting as audition or monologue, but as an audience member, has left indelible impression. Wonderful to visualize it again in memory. Thanks for that piece of nostalgia.


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