Spark Fest gem bristles with humour Hannah Moscovitch is renowned for finding the funny in the macabre.
Her excellent play What a Young Wife Ought to Know is no exception. This superior production, presented at the Belfry Theatre's Spark Festival by Halifax based 2 b theatre company, is pandora necklaces and pendants simply not to be missed. The 80 minute show bristles with humour, intelligence and big hearted humanity. What a Young Wife Ought to Know is about a working class wife in the 1920s grappling with the horror of having zero access to birth control. The day to day realities are as gritty as all get out. Sophie is portrayed as someone who is torn apart both mentally and physically simply by having one child after another. The play was inspired by a book of letters written by ordinary women in the 1920s to Dr. Marie Stopes, founder of England's first birth control clinic. Through some alchemy, cheap pandora online Moscovitch has forged this unlikely material into a darkly funny rumination on what happens when love and sex become pitted against the tyrannies of poverty and a heartless class system. Sophie (Jenny Young) is a girl from a dirt poor Ottawa family. She has an innocent affair with the tubercular post boy they just lie on the floor and kiss one another. Sophie is so naive, she worries this has made her pregnant. Her sister Alma (Rebecca Parent), the more cunning of the pair, assures her she is not. Alma, meanwhile, is having a less innocent tryst with Johnny (Matthew Edison), a handsome Irish stableboy. Young love turns into catastrophe. Ultimately, it is Sophie and Johnny who end up marrying. At first, the couple is poor, but happy. And then the babies start coming. Some live, some die. It takes a pandora heart charm toll. A doctor advises Sophie not to have more children, as her ruined womb cannot sustain it. She might even die. Because the couple cannot afford birth control or abortions, the pregnancies continue. Yet they cannot afford to feed more children, either. Finally, at her wit's end, Sophie declares she'd rather be dead than bear another baby. You might be telling yourself: "Hey, this doesn't seem like a fun night at the theatre." Don't be put off. The play is uplifted by Moscovitch's great skill in mining humour from darkness. Her grotesque, Kafka like situations become fodder for laughter. For instance, she declares she loved the post boy, but not as much pandora malaysia website as Johnny. Why? Well, the post boy's dead of course. And then there's the copulatory kitchen table scene in which Alma's baby preventing concoction (cocoa butter and tannic acid) gives Johnny the surprise of his life. On Tuesday, Young offered a terrific performance as Sophie. Wearing a simple cotton frock, she finds the character's quirky likeability, her toughness and her humanity. Edison's Johnny is also impressive. In other hands, the man might be an oppressor, yet as the playwright intends, the character is (like Sophie) big hearted, compassionate and complex. Director Christian Barry and designer Leigh Ann Vardy have devised bold, simple lighting that works awfully well. The stage just a few bits of furniture is dimly lit, giving the impression of a tenement flat. Some key scenes are barely illuminated, as though a single light bulb has been turned on.
One especially bleak period in Sophie and Johnny's lives is acted almost in darkness. Touches that might have backfired in another play ghostly visitations or Sophie's habit of addressing the audience directly work in What a Young Wife Ought to Know. It's not an easy play to end, yet the complex, exquisitely rendered final moments captured the finely balanced tone we experienced throughout the performance.
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