Andrew Snowdon

2011 Prix Rideau Awards, My Irresponsible Speculations on

In Uncategorized on Sunday 4 March 2012 at 15:17

Is there any pleasure in life to approach that of speculating about entertainment industry awards?

I sure hope so.  But it is a unique pleasure; at least half of the fun of these things is agreeing or disagreeing with nominations, the rationale of the categories, and guessing who’s going to win for what—and for what reason.

Although I didn’t get to attend this year’s Prix Rideau Awards nomination announcements—not because they were in Gatineau, but because I was working a little too late to have any hope of getting there on time—I did follow along on Twitter.

(Okay, I took a nap on the bus and then caught up with the feed afterwards.  Close enough.)

A quick look over the nominations confirms three things: everyone and everything that was nominated deserved to be, I still don’t see enough French theatre (remarkably, I did see Retour à Pripyat at the 2011 Ottawa Fringe Festival, and I’m glad it got a nod) so I can’t comment intelligently on the French categories, and I really should have seen Under Milk Wood.

I’m not entirely sure what will win, although I have my ideas as to what I’d like to see win (which I will keep mostly to myself, as I intend to continue to be welcome at parties).  I’m glad to see Roller Derby Saved My Soul nominated in several categories; I had a few glimpses into the creative process along the way so I know it was a difficult baby to birth.  I also know it was well worth it; even the most critical of critics approved and said glowing candid things.  Then there’s Sounds from the Turtle Shell, which I added to my (packed) Fringe schedule on the strong recommendation of Catriona Leger.  I don’t regret it.  Then there’s glitch… which I thoroughly enjoyed—maybe as much as I enjoyed Bifurcate Me.  I did miss the other two Fringe nominees, but it’s mathematically impossible to see everything and the beer tent is so convenient and social and tastes of apricot.  It’s good to see The Shadow Cutter get the recognition it deserves, too.  Andy Massingham has the lion’s share of the love this year; perhaps it’s partly due to his dancing at last year’s awards gala afterparty?  I kid.

Right away, I think the Design award is Ivo V. vs. Mr. Valentik (although I’m still listening to Fauré’s Requiem thanks to AL Connor’s intricate sound design for Little Martyrs).  Valentik’s set designs for Speed-the-Plow and A Midwinter’s Dream Tale were based on a similar stark white, exaggerated perspective aesthetic, but developed in two decidedly different ways.  I’m partial to the Speed-the-Plow set myself.
It’s a pleasant surprise to me to see Strawberries In January nominated for Outstanding Production.  Keen eyes will notice it’s not nominated under any other category; with four lovely, professional actors, a masterful translation that kept the francophone flavour intact, and a simple but effective approach to design and direction, no one element stands out.  And that’s as it should be in a winter romantic comedy.  Conversely, The Lavender Railroad, while nominated for Outstanding Direction, was not also nominated for Outstanding Production.  It was, however, nominated for Outstanding New Creation.  It’s bound to win something, but what?
As I hoped they would, both nominated productions Little Martyrs and Lavender Railroad have aged well in my memory.  This seems to be a characteristic of Evolution Theatre shows; whatever one’s immediate opinion of their productions (and I’m by no means suggesting it’s likely to be an unfavourable opinion), they seem to improve over time.  I think this is at least partly due to their strong visual aesthetic.  You remember the pictures.  I don’t quite know what this says about sense ratio, memory, and theatre, but if some postgraduate student would please apply themselves to researching the subject, or at least musing upon it, I would be immensely grateful.
The Outstanding Performance, Male category is troublesome.  Setting aside the three Andys Massingham for a moment, the two other nominees pose a similar question: what about their partner?  It’s not Richard Gélinas alone, but Gélinas and Zach Counsil that performed very much as one in The 39 Steps; in the case of John Muggleton and Chris Ralph in Speed-the-Plow less so, but why Muggleton and not Ralph?  This is a question that has come up before.  The Rideau Awards’ rules are much more rigid than the Capital Critics’ Circle, who were able to award all three of the cast of Heroes their equivalent award.  Sometimes common sense triumphs.  Once again, the Rideau Awards really need an Duo/Ensemble Cast category.  In fact, they need it more and more every year since as the theatre community matures and evolves and actors and directors become more familiar with each other, the tendency is towards mounting ensemble productions.
Outstanding Performance, Female is personally troublesome because—I don’t know if I mentioned, but I didn’t see Under Milk Wood, so I can’t compare Annie Lefebvre’s performance to the other nominees.  And I can certainly agree with the rest of the nominations.  If I say that nobody was left out, I’m sure I’ll get some dirty looks.  So: everyone who was nominated should have been, and that other one you’re thinking of should have been, too.
I’m baffled by the rationale used by the Prix Rideau Awards in classifying something as an adaptation or a translation.  The Ottawa Shakespeare Company’s inaugural production, Hamlet 2011, was neither.  It was Hamlet, pure and simple—Hamlet with strong directorial choices, but Hamlet you could read along with.  They didn’t even cut the First Player’s speech (usually the first thing to go).  Is every modern-dress presentation of Shakespeare an adaptation now?  Likewise, Antigone was a fresh translation, yes, but given that they kept even the Chorus (again, you could follow along with Sophocles in hand; it’s pretty close) what makes it an adaptation?  Even the Shakespearian mashup A Midwinter’s Dream Tale is stretching all sorts of definitions.  Maybe The Fan will win, and I can pretend it’s because one of the characters breaks into Trololo at an opportune moment.
The Emerging Artist category is one I really do wish everyone could win.  How, for example, do you separate Nancy Kenny’s breakthrough as a playwright from Tania Levy’s breakthrough as a director?  And is Pierre Ducharme’s spectacular set design for Little Martyrs better or worse than Mishka Lavigne’s translation?  And Katie Bunting’s a delight on stage.

I think the Prix Rideau Awards need a name for the award.  Prix Rideau Award is just too cumbersome to say, or to type.  I mean, the Academy gives out Oscars, there are Grammys and Emmys and Tonys so there should be some equivalent familiar term for the Prix Rideau Award.  I’m sure someone can think of a suitable bilingual name.  I mean, I guess we could call it a “Rideau” but that seems too easy, somehow.  Let us not follow the lead of the Junos and call it the “Rido.”  Please, no.

The award gala will be held at the Shenkman Arts Centre this year.  I’m still embarrassed that this will be my first time visiting Shenkman (I really, really should have gone to see Under Milk Wood), but it’s just so far away, living as I do sensibly close to the NAC and what I consider the basic necessities of civilization (an Herb & Spice, a Staples, and The Manx).  Then again, I understand it’s convenient by bus at all hours.  I still wouldn’t want to be making my way back to Gatineau or the west end afterwards.  Then again, they’re holding the Junos at Scotiabank Place, which is practically in Bancroft, so what do I know?

Enough nitpicking.  The Prix Rideau Awards gala is the best party in town, hands down.  It’s a theatrical event in and of itself, promotes dialogue between the English and French theatre communities, and keeps people thinking and talking about the productions they’ve seen.

Besides, when else can you win at theatre?

Oh, alright.  Everybody always wins at theatre.

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