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Volume 91, Issue 19
Tuesday, September 30, 1997
Art in London has new easel to stand on
MOMMA ALWAYS DID LOVE YOU BEST. Simply Theatre was just one of the many avant-garde theatre groups to perform last weekend at the London New Arts Festival.
By Patrick Anderson and Mark Lewandowski
The London New Arts Festival came to its inevitable conclusion Sunday and for event organizer Carol Smith, it couldn't have come any sooner.
"I just ate for the first time in a day and a half," complains Smith, whose busy schedule left her feeling a lot like her acts a starving artist. As event organizer, coordinator and announcer, she busied herself between the many artistic venues throughout the course of the festive weekend.
Many of the visual artists and headline live acts, like the Arrogant Worms and Simply Theatre, had good turnouts, but unfortunately the smaller acts went largely unseen.
Friday afternoon's opening got off to an inauspicious start when the Galleria's fire alarm chased away most of the early crowd, however, the musical Sirens later rallied the crowd with their defiant brand of vocal jazz.
"The Sirens [musical group] not only packed the place, but sold every CD they had and were invited to perform in Kentucky," Smith gushed.
But overcoming adversity is nothing new to this festival, which last year didn't even get off the ground due to a "lack of funding and organization," Smith denotes. Part of the festival's success lies in the fact that it went on at all.
In previous years, the festival was held on Dundas St., though a combination of unpredictable weather and less-than-enthusiastic business support were a constant headache, says festival site-coordinator, Randy Bannerman. In its first year at The Galleria London, Bannerman already notes an improvement, pointing out the Mall's merchants have been very welcoming.
"The venues were all provided free of charge by the mall," he says. "That has really helped us this year."
Another highlight on stage was the avante-garde Simply Theatre. The progressive dialogue mixed well with short, melodious staccato bursts of music and offbeat rhythms and antics. Director Dale Hirlehey was "happy with the crowds," adding "it is important to get the Simply Theatre name out."
The community theatre troupe, together since July, is a collective of over 30 members whose approach is theatre for its own sake. Based at the Talbot Theatre, the ensemble's next endeavour is Meet Me in St. Louis at the Palace, followed by a cabaret in May. They were a crowd-pleaser at the festival, with shows like All in the Timing, which blended improvisation, humour and quality acting an informal style that went over well in such a small live setting.
By the festival's end, participants were predictably upbeat. From an observer's perspective, however, the show was a mixed success. The live acts were well-rehearsed and enthusiastic, but frankly, the festival would have benefitted from more (or even any) promotion. Of the few in attendance, most didn't even know about the festival until they stumbled upon it while shopping at the Galleria. Perhaps promotion will be a focus next year and not a hindsight.
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Copyright © The Gazette 1997