Volume 91, Issue 63

Wednesday, January 21, 1998

grape vine


A Canadian cultural resurrection

©Nick Jamal/Gazette
NEXT WE'LL TRY THE TRIANGLE FORMATION. Clarissa Begin, Matt Austin Sadowski and Sandi Burges practice their gymnastics routine for the theatre production Murder Pattern.

By Viviane Kertesz

Gazette Writer

Playwright Herman Voaden had a vision and Christine Lacey is responsible for reminding us of his brilliance. Lacey is the student director of Murder Pattern, Voaden's acclaimed dramatic account of actual events that took place in 1905 near Haliburton, Ontario.

The play weaves a tale of human corruption in a rural Canadian community while following the development of suspected murderer Jack Davis. The process of life's trials, first psychological and later literal, is the recurring theme in Murder Pattern.

Although privy to witness the murder per se, the audience only learns of the circumstances surrounding the homicide by means of retrospective narrative glances. The events leading up to the murder are masterfully proposed; both townspeople and probable Thespian representatives of Jack Davis' conscience voice their suspicions about the assailant and the victim.

Jack Davis (Matt Austin Sadowski) sheds light on this aspect of the play's centre of gravity. He claims "the maze of life can lead you in the direction of being seen either as courageous or as a coward."

As director, Lacey has held fast to Voaden's distinctly nationalistic play in promoting what she purports to be the "sublime and terrifying, yet indifferent Canadian landscape." She ideally evokes the effect of nature's grandeur by means of a symbolic, minimalist set that no ornately decorated set could adequately replicate.

While Herman Voaden was a contemporary of world-renowned Canadian artists The Group of Seven, they were colleagues in pursuit of similar artistic representations. In his own right, Voaden is famous primarily for his innovative brand of theatre that is considered nothing less than consciously Canadian.

Lacey renews Voaden's trademark, an ingenious genre of theatre coined "symphonic expressionism," which is essentially the melding of various artistic media, including dance, visual components, music, and drama. The result is a symphony of expression that creates an impression unique to the genre. Lacey outlines the divergence between this dramatic mode and more straightforward, contemporary Canadian plays. "It is more abstract than the raw Canadian drama of today," she says.

The slide presentation of work by The Group of Seven which introduces the play, suggests Lacey successfully incorporates multiple media and has thus revived the concept of Voaden's innovation in her production of Murder Pattern. Whereas Lacey adheres to the content of the original script, she does take a few directorial liberties in terms of the play's production. Some characters perform multiple roles, which works well in conjunction with the fluidity of movement of a play boasting no notable scene division.

But Lacey's real directorial coup is to preserve the play's chronology while manipulating its temporal setting so as to appeal to a modern audience. In an effort to bridge the gap between story and spectator, Lacey allows only the day and month of each event in the narrative to be revealed, while consistently omitting the designation of year. "I wanted it to be timeless," Lacey says, illustrating while murder may not be en vogue, it truly is in season.

Murder Pattern runs Jan. 20-24, at 8 p.m. in the Drama Workshop, Rm. 224 of University College. Tickets are available at Infosource in the UCC ($5 for students and seniors and $7 for adults).

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1998