Fringe Review: Novice Productions presents “A Closer Look”


(Photo courtesy of Novice Productions)

Montreal theatre company Novice Productions presents A Closer Look, written by and starring Cheryl Williams, a multimedia, multidisciplinary performance about facing one’s fears. The production is like a storybook for adults, with a clear moral and innocent deliverance.

(Not to be mistaken for anything else, this is an amateur production. The writing, acting, dancing, and design are unpretentious and inexperienced, but it is an earnest performance in which the whole cast supports the message and the writer in her endeavor to share her emotional growth.)

The set and costumes are simple and low-budget, giving the production the feeling of a workshop outcome. The set is dynamically transformable and stripped to its barest necessities – like a cat, a clock, an upright bed. With its hand-drawn and collaged simplicity, the set feels like a paper doll house. The costumes are brought-from-home with a few humble alterations. However, some costume choices are confusing, such as the Boss’s eccentric scarf and red eye-makeup.

Though it takes a few minutes to notice the shift from prose to verse, the sing-song rhyming script establishes a calm, story-time tone. Williams speaks in the third person about her character Faith, making her inner, lucid, and emotional experience the focus of the play. Indeed, the world of the play often crosses the lines between metaphor, dream, and reality.

The through-line seems to change trajectory several times, resulting in a confusing combination of messages. At times it seems the play’s subject is internalizing and reciprocating hurtful words, then facing one’s social fears, or speaking up for one’s self against harassment, or pondering the infinity of time and space. According to the last lines however, which present a lesson Aesop-style, the overarching moral of the play is acknowledging one’s repressed feelings and “feeling everything.”

Although the tone of the piece strives to be quite serious, there are segments that unmistakably deserve laughter in their blatant cheesiness (specifically, the multimedia dream sequences – which take the form of music videos – and their galactic background animation, robotic singing to R&B, edited-in echo and subtitles, and close up pans of a Jesus-like man). In those moments, it is painful not to laugh, but the performance feels too earnest to be insulted with laughter.

The most powerful scene of the play is a dramatic dance number between Faith and the personification of her repressed fear. This short interpretive tango moment is much more effective than the rather stiff group choreographies that Faith’s dance students perform, and it is a touching opportunity to see Faith express herself in dance when she herself has been judged for choosing dance as a career.

The large cast is redundant for the number of characters, but it is heartwarming to see so many individuals on board in supporting the show.

In short, A Closer Look is a rhyming fable for adults with the lesson “face your fears and feel everything in order to be truly free.” Novice Productions successfully achieves what it set out to create: a humble production with a positive message. Embracing the cheesiness and amateur creation, an audience member can momentarily step into a play that blurs the lines between reality, inner thought, lucid dream, and metaphor.

Review by Montreal Theatre Hub Fringe Contributor Celine Cardineau

Novice Productions presents “A Closer Look”

When: June 8 – 17, 2017
Where: Studio Jean-Valcourt du Conservatoire, 4750 Rue Henri-Julien
Admission: $10
Duration: 30 minutes
Tickets: | 514.849.FEST (3378)

Official Media Partner of the 2017 St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival

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Celine Cardineau

2017 Fringe Reviewer at Montreal Theatre Hub
Celine Cardineau is a multidisciplinary artist from the United States. She is going on her fourth year at Concordia University, studying Studio Arts and Theatre Design. At the moment, she works primarily in painting and in building props and puppets, but she also enjoys illustration, photography, scene painting, and costume design. However, her strongest interest is in collaborating with other artists, no matter the medium. Learning to give and to receive critique is a personal priority for Celine, hence her passion for seeing, discussing, analyzing and reviewing productions.