Every year I look forward to the weather warming and our wonderful city coming to life… one of the best ways the T.O. comes together is the Luminato, Toronto Festival of Arts and Creativity. I’m sure we all know what I’m talking about it’s a spectacular 10 day multi-disciplinary celebration of theatre, dance, music, literature, food, visual arts, fashion, film, magic and more which takes over Toronto’s public stages, streets, spaces.
All the buzz about Bollywood and the IIFA taking over T.O. I decided my first stop on the Luminato train would be TAJ an emotional dance-theatre production from Lata Pada’s Sampradaya Dance Company, starring Bollywood’s Kabir Bedi and Canada’s Lisa Ray.
The Taj Mahal is one of the greatest wonders of the world, the epic story of emperor’s Shah Jahan devotion to his wife, Lata Pada’s artistic direction delivers the tale with a twist of dance and theatre. The simple yet beautiful costume and set design brings you to the splendor to Mughal dynasty. I found myself wanting a little more dance and excitement, but just then the words from the script written by playwright John Murrell awoke me with lines such as “the moon out ran the sun”. Little did I know these words would weave a tale of political strife, family turmoil and agony all directed under the eye of Tom Diamond. I must say this was a powerful commissioned piece for the festival that truly brought the grandeur of this wonder alive. (Photos courtesy of Divine Method Photography)
I walked in automatically my eyes had to squint to adjust to the dark dim underground the resembled a bunker if you ask me, as went down the stairs we were greeted by men dressed in full army fatigue armed with AKs, barking German shepherds. I swear, as I almost peed myself before I got to my sit. Once I regained my composer I was like this is where Necessary Angel Theatre Company is showing their modernized take on Jean Racine’s Andromaque, I was puzzled but not for long.
The key pieces of the post-war Troy myth are woven into this re-invention, Troy is replaced with Iraq where the war has ended and the empire is in turmoil. The story follows the ruler of the crumbled empire who lust after his slave, the recently widowed Andromache (who is updated to a Muslim woman) she shows him no sign of interest yet the ruler presses on… all this time having a wife I forgot to add. Imagine the mental anguish for the wife that witnesses her husband’s infatuation for his slave and now imagine being enslaved with constant demands of pleasing her master or face sacrificing the life of her son. A bit much I know, but when you strip it down you realize the characters soon find themselves in a dramatic tragedy showcasing real human passion full of lust, and the desire for power which leads to inhuman atrocities fueled by their unrequited passion for one another. (Photos courtesy of Michael Cooper)
The minute I heard “Vodavil” was here for Luminato I knew it was a must, and for those who don’t know what I’m talking about its “vaudeville” describes a circuit of performers who traveled from city to city in 1890s until the 1930s- singing, dancing, pantomime, juggling, comedy and well magic.
The MC of the night so to speak was Mike Caveney who is known for his unique routines perfectly fitting to his dry comedic wit. He doesn’t tell jokes but you won’t stop laughing and his tricks are something amazing. (Like when he was spinning a cup of coffee on a wheel and throwing it in the air and catching it without spilling a drop… well there was one time the cup fell and broke.
Tina Lenert opened the night with her charming silent comedy filled with magic to give you an enchanting experience especially with “Maid in Heaven,” where a Debbie Downer, a frumpy cleaning lady is magically transformed and finds a new her with the aid of her trusty cleaning cart. I spotted Tina throughout the show with a few cameos but I (heart) her for going straight old school with the art of illusion using the rings and scarf for her second act.
Gaëtan Bloom is the man, he is truly gifted and is the master of absurd as they say and I see why. He had me on the edge my seat like a five year old, he’s quite foremost a showman who brings his art to life. Before my eyes he cut the cable to the mic and attached again with a string… I know, you don’t believe. His closing card trick is probably hands down the best I’ve seen… he chopped up lettuce, grapefruit, orange and kiwi and threw it into box (weird I know). After he put his hand in the box and pulled out a single head of lettuce only to take off all the leaves and BAM there was the grapefruit, peeled the grapefruit BAM the orange, peeled the orange BAM the kiwi and then he cut the kiwi open to expose the card… insane, I know I saw with my own two eyes.
Ardan James is pretty awesome, an original mixed media performer who has knack for physical illusionist who loves to use ventriloquism to draw the audience in, but if you ask me with a smile and charm like that I was already hooked.
The Great Tomsoni and Company are simply hilarious… the onstage dialogue is filled with comedy, drama and good old fun and best of all they do the magic I LOVE. I mean real magic, the Great Tomsoni is a living legend and probably one of the few that Masters of magic we have left. Tomsoni performed the classics that we all love; pulling millions of scarves, birds and other apparatuses… the best is when he pulled the bird from his sleeve and it flew in the air, AMAZING. This had to be the best fun I had in awhile, I was intrigued the entire show and laughed til my tummy ached… what more can you ask for.
BTW… we all know I couldn’t miss one of my fave fashion designers Denis Gagnon who teamed up with Lancôme to design a modern dress for based on the whimsical Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It was stunning, as if you expected anything less.
As always Luminato NEVER disappoints and I thank them every year for enriching our beautiful city!!!
P.S. I got to checkout the National Ballet of Canada’s Alice Adventures in Wonderland, please click for the story.