Go have an Art Attackk

Henricus&Jerome

Henricus Gielis is a rule-bound security guard encouraged to pursue his dreams by a talking, folk art statue in Art Attackk, a trio of plays about art and life by Halifax Theatre for Young People.

Halifax Theatre for Young People’s Art Attackk is a trio of adventures for kids about life and art.

The company took this fun, kinetic, hour-long show on a school tour in May and recently performed it as part of Eastern Front Theatre’s Stages Theatre Festival.

There, in the Neptune studio theatre, a mainly adult audience laughed its way through three stories about friends helping the central characters come to terms with themselves and move forward.

In On the Right Track, by Jacob Sampson, a troubled teen from the foster care system is deposited at the art gallery by his foster brother who demands he do a school project on a painting.

Once his brother leaves, the furious teen throws his notebook across the room, only to have it picked up by a precocious, self-admittedly weird, little girl, who loves art and urges the teen to express himself. The two form a brief bond studying Alex Colville’s painting The Ocean Limited and the teen to writes a poem about determining his own path in life.

It’s fun to see Sam Vigneault as the teen and Henricus Gielis as the goofy, loving older brother quickly transform into two nerdy, urbane uncles helping their angry young niece (Rachel Hastings) cope with the loss of her cat.

One uncle, a curator at the gallery, has suggested she hold a life celebration for Carmen during off hours.

The fierce, direct little girl, wearing a ball cap and a T-shirt featuring her dead cat, lashes out at her guests then, with the help of her uncles, comes to terms with her grief.
Needless to say, it’s very funny with a cat dance, a lesson in rubbing a cat’s belly and homemade props.

This short and snappy play is also a good insight into how to give space to grieving people by letting them talk openly and by not avoiding the fact of death.

Cat Dance

Rachel Hastings as a grieving girl who has lost her cat and Henricus Gielis and Sam Vigneault as her uncles do a cat dance in Richie Wilcox’s Cats are More than Memes.   

Anyone who’s every been admonished by a gallery security guard will love Lindsay Wilson’s wacky, imaginative play There are Rules (but only sometimes), full of song and dance and comedy.

Gielis is an uptight security guard called Henricus who secretly wants to be a singer. He hilariously bursts out of his shell when a wooden folk art statue of a young fisherman comes to life, encouraging him to open his heart up to life and joy and his dreams. By the end Henricus is happy to say he’s had an “art attackk.”

Art Attackk, directed by Tessa Mendel with a set design particularly strong in There are Rules by Katrin Whitehead and sound design by Brian Riley, has a great cast in Gielis, Vigneault as the troubled teen and the wooden statue and Rachel Hastings in her vigorous, honest performances of the two girls.

Art Attackk grew out of Halifax Theatre for Young People’s brilliant idea last year to commission nine playwrights to write a short piece inspired by a painting of their choice at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

From those plays, company artistic producer  Mendel chose three that she felt flowed well together, could be cast with two men and one woman, were all set in a gallery and had connecting themes of art creation and how friendship helps people express themselves.

The show aimed at ages nine to 12 will be back in the fall for a school tour but if there is a public performance go see it. You’ll laugh and learn no matter what age you are.

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