Review: Centaur Theatre presents English world premiere of ‘MOB’

Translated version of Catherine-Anne Toupin’s 'La meute' runs in Montreal until March 29th

Matthew Kabwe as “Martin” and Adrianne Richards as “Sophie” in MOB (photo by Andrée Lanthier)

MOB is the English language world premiere of Catherine-Anne Toupin’s play La meute, translated by Chris Campbell. Directed by Andrew Shaver, this fine-tuned production of the thriller-drama features talented performances by Adrienne Richards, Matthew Kabwe, and Susan Bain, stunning designs, and an engaging, relevant script. 

The story begins with the a stranger turning up on the doorstep, running from secrets and seeking something unknown. The mystery that follows is not only surprising, but raises important points on contemporary issues of harassment, hate speech, cyber technology, body issues, power structures, and justice. 

When Sophie (Richards) and Martin (Kabwe) meet, they both find themselves in a time of transition, feeling disoriented and powerless. Both “victims of their own games,” they each must face the unforgiving consequences of their own actions, while fighting not to be labeled a victim. As they develop an unlikely connection, they dare each other to “see it as an opportunity,” to take hold of their own destinies, and to put their words into action—after all, how much power do words really have, if you don’t intend to act on them? We soon learn never to underestimate someone with nothing to lose, someone facing their worst fears, or someone never held accountable. By the end, we also learn that some games have no winners.

Matthew Kabwe as “Martin”; Adrianne Richards as “Sophie” and Susan Bain as “Louise” in MOB (photo by Andrée Lanthier)

Despite the delicious dramatic twists, the remarkable strength of the actors’ performance shines especially in the tender moments between Sophie, Martin, and Louise (Bain). We have the pleasure of sharing many sweet moments with the characters—smiles, silences, platonic affection, unconditional familial love, shy vulnerability, and blossoming self-confidence. All three cast members deliver wonderfully humorous, believable, nuanced performances of Toupin’s complex, lovable characters.

As the mystery of MOB unravels, the design pulls us into a world of suspenseful tension, simple pleasures, layered emotional currents, and technological presence. James Lavoie’s set design is the first thing to take your breath away. An elegantly simple architectural structure fills the black box theatre, with a presence both dominating and inviting. The stage is raised and enclosed by black beams and columns, inviting the audience to peer into—and through—the contained space. When the lights come up, we are surprised to see the minimalist silhouettes of chairs and tables transform from a deep black to a pastel mint-green, immediately suggesting an old-fashioned domesticity or hospital-like coldness. Props such as red wine and spaghetti bolognese act as tiny screams of red in a sea of gentle green. A generic painting of a rural winter scene hints at the play’s setting, yet the set design decidedly leaves the space ambiguous and stripped of unnecessary detail. 

Matthew Kabwe as “Martin” and Adrianne Richards as “Sophie” in MOB (photo by Andrée Lanthier)

Martin Sirois’s lighting design is nothing short of brilliant, balancing the line between understated and experimental. A wall of soft side lighting introduces us to the space, like a sunrise through a curtain, or the blank page at the start of a book. In certain strategic moments, the lights turn from realistic white light to a dreamy purple haze, with glitching rows of LEDs, as if the characters’ lives have been hacked and tampered with.

The sound design by Jesse Ash is beautifully suspenseful. Electronic music creates trance-like crescendos between the everyday moments of white noise filling in the background. Both Sirois and Ash brilliantly make use of the cell phone as a source of light and sound onstage. For a contemporary play, the presence of technology onstage is important. More than a superficial prop, the smart phone is another actor—a live portal to the internet’s virtual reality, a window onto an anonymous community, a camera lens capturing the moment, a tool for changing the soundtrack of our own lives, a spotlight on someone’s face. 

In short, MOB is a well-executed production, an intriguing story, an important discussion-starter, and an exciting ride from start to finish.

Centaur Theatre presents the English World Premiere of MOB
Dates: March 3rd – 29th, 2020
Venue: 453 Saint François-Xavier
Admission: $30 – 56
Box Office: (514) 288-3161 |

Celine Cardineau

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