Review: Gift of Screws

Bill Marchant delivers two compelling pieces about power and control with his new works, What then must we do and Muzzle of Bees, as part of his Gift of Screws currently at the Jericho Arts Centre.  Reinforcing Marchant’s skill as both writer and director and coupled with a great cast, this is definitely one show you should not miss.

The Cast of What then must we doFirst up is What then must we do.  Here Marchant’s talent as a writer really shines as he begins his exploration of the power people have and those that allow that power.

Simply set on an almost empty stage, two actors Linda (Nadine Wright) and Freddy (Daniel Letto) are rehearsing a scene when they are interrupted by Smith (Stephen Park), the show’s director, and his assistant Franklin (Matt Fentiman).  Smith begins berating his actors, demanding they look deep to bring their characters to life, wielding his power and control over them like a sword poised for a kill.  As Smith continues to feed off the acceptance of those around him to this power we watch as Smith crosses a line, in one of the most intense scenes of the play, and discover he may have crossed it before.

Marchant’s words here are absolutely mesmerizing and while his obvious love of language does take centre stage, it is to the credit of this very strong cast that they embrace Marchant’s words with such a conviction and skill that makes What then must we do that much more successful.

No doubt Voice Coach Ian Raffel also played a huge part in ensuring the translation of Marchant’s words from paper to stage and the obvious attention in helping the actors get it note perfect is very evident.

I am convinced the impact of What then must we do will stay with me for some time to come and, ultimately, this is what differentiates great theatre from the merely good.

The second piece Muzzle of Bees, continues Marchant’s theme of power and control as five naked men with their heads covered in hoods come to terms with their seeming incarceration and torture by their unseen captors.

Here Marchant uses the abuses suffered by Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison as his backdrop in exploring how even when power and control are collectively being forced upon us, we still seek others to wield our own power and control over.

Marchant continues to emphasize his themes by denying his actors the use of their faces or clothes through most of this piece making them rely strictly on their voices and in movement; for the most part the five actors (Shane Michael Leydon, Karston Borst, Blaine Nosworthy, Lars Callsen and Jordie Jacura) are definitely up to this challenge.

While What then must we do is definitely the more fleshed out and solid of the two, as a duo they both continue to reinforce Marchant as a master writer and story teller.  Combined with a very solid cast, like Marchant’s last show Ashes, you definitely don’t want to miss Gift of Screws.

(For those that might not know, Bill Marchant is not only a writer and director, but he also runs the acting program for the Vancouver Film School.  After seeing what he [successfully] gets his actors to do in Gift of Screws and the themes he explores, I am not sure if I should be encouraging people to sign up for his classes or run screaming in the opposite direction).

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