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Friday, June 10, 2011

Review: A Different Woman (Fringe 2011)

Reviewed by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

You will not see many performances, in or out of a Fringe, as assured and hypnotizing as Veronica Russell's in this true story of the childhood of Gertrude Beasley in the American West in the 18th and 19th centuries. You have her, in period costume, a chair and a basket and that, ladies and gentlemen, is it as far as scenography is concerned. For 85 minutes she tells her story of a childhood which, she tells us, "will curl your hair" and which puts the romanticized Wild West of Louis L'Amour to shame. It is a tale of rape, incest (forced and not), hilariously sordid stories of barnyard hijinks and of a mother who bore 13 children and a husband whom she despised.

The first 30 minutes are mostly contemplative but then Russell finally connected with her tiny audience, tonight, and magic happened. This complicity with the house was released by the character, simply, eating a piece of fruit as she spoke and suddenly she was human and slipped off the aloofness. Moreover, the audience became less restrained. With a larger house, it will be even better - more raucous, probably - and Russell the actor and Beasley the person deserve that audience. I will, however, pick one nit: the text could stand to lose 20 minutes. Stories of a courtship and the rise of socialism could disappear as they distract from the different woman at the centre of this, otherwise, magnificent work.

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