Playwright Colleen MacIsaac stars as a despairing scientist experiencing a sci-fi utopian world in The Villain Theatre’s The Blazing World, at the Neptune studio theatre through Sunday. (photo by Stoo Metz)
Colleen MacIsaac’s The Blazing World is a brilliant, hopeful, 90-minute comedy about environmental issues and a depressed scientist.
Literate, funny and theatrically inventive, the play is refreshing in tackling today’s fears and despair about climate change.
In fact, MacIsaac’s script is based on a 1666 proto-science fiction by Margaret Cavendish, the Duchess of Newcastle, in which the lead character travels to an imaginary, utopian world.
MacIsaac stars as Peg Newcastle, a scientist studying a nearly extinct “glacier stone fly” living on a dissolving glacier in the Rocky Mountains. When she is offered an international environmental advocacy job, she alienates her partner Em by a self-absorbed despair about the efficacy of one individual fighting climate change.
It’s unclear exactly how she gets sucked into an alternate world during a dramatic storm at sea but no matter. What a wonderful world it is!
Peg finds herself guided by a trio of polar bears who can stand and communicate in growls and clapped hands. She falls underwater into a world of amazing sea creatures beautifully realized as puppets with a Mermaid Theatre level of quality, elegance and imaginative wonder.
Then she meets a giant stone fly, a proud scientist with an understated sense of humour, in a fantastic, comic performance by Dan Bray, with an incredible, bug costume by designer Jordyn F. Bochon.
The Villain’s Theatre is producing The Blazing World through the Open Spaces program, run by Theatre Nova Scotia and Neptune Theatre, with support from Arts Nova Scotia. The program gives a theatre company with new work one week of free performance space with technical and administrative support.
The Villain’s Theatre has jumped at the chance for increased tech with Matthew Downey’s beautiful lighting design animating the puppetry and creating watery and Aurora-lights effects on a backdrop of garbage-bag plastic.
The sophisticated lights and sound design with original music by Jenny Trites are twinned with the creative low-tech, glacier-inspired set by Katrin Whitehead, who also made all the wonderful puppets including funny, shadow puppetry pieces.
Ryanne Chisholm, director and choreographer, weaves her ensemble cast of Bray, Noella Murphy and Gina Thornhill with energy, clarity and comic rhythm
MacIsaac stars the highly inquisitive, fast-talking, punning Peg, a highly engaging character who’s fun to journey with.
The Blazing World, based on Cavendish’s A Description of a New World, Called The Blazing World, is recommended for kids 12 and up. Its final message that individuals can act to combat climate disaster is a good one for people of all ages.
It’s a short run through April 15 with shows tonight 8 p.m. (Chip Night); Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m. (Talkback) and Sunday, 3 p.m., at the Neptune Theatre Scotiabank Stage. Tickets are at the Neptune box office (www.neptunetheatre.com.)
The Villain’s Theatre, founded originally as Vile Passeist Theatre in 2009 by Bray, artistic director, and MacIsaac, artistic producer, likes to inject new life (into classical works. It holds a spring soiree and season launch May 5.