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Showing posts from May, 2011

Jenn Grant ~ Honeymoon Punch

The inside of Halifax-based singer-songwriter Jenn Grant’s new album reads that it “was made in a cabin on Lake Deception in rural Nova Scotia in the spring”, which isn’t surprising. It evokes the feeling of youthful, relaxing summer fun reminiscent of the 50s and 60s with playful lyrics to match. A breath of truly creative fresh air, the songs combine unique, dream-like instruments, Grant’s soulful folk-style voice and progressive beats. The sound somehow celebrates the vibe of East Coast indie-pop culture and motivates the listener to believe in its progression. - SO

Jill Barber - Mischievous Moon

Although Jill Barber’s retro-folk charm remains in her newest album, the musical composition of her songs seems to have matured. The album is a modern take on soulful fifties jazz with its sweeping symphonic melodies. Each song has the romantic, dream-like quality of a Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald tune, the perfect accompaniment for Barber’s soulful voice. The blend of genres and playful dynamics of this album lend it a universal quality, making Barber a uniquely rich small-town-Canadian artist. If her 2008 album Chances hasn’t broadened her audience, Mischievous Moon certainly will. - SO

Brightest Red to Blue ~ Review by Whitney Moran

Brightest Red to Blue
Written by Graham Percy, Directed by Natasha MacLellan
Performed by Forerunner Playwrights Theatre

“Oh never weep for love that’s dead/Since love is seldom true/But changes his fashion from blue to red/From brightest red to blue”- Elizabeth Siddal, “Dead Love”

Poetic. Macabre. Deliriously funny. Forerunner Playwrights Theatre’s premiere of Brightest Red to Blue is at once “a drunken howl at the moon” (Playwright’s Notes) as well as a physical and philosophical rumination on the plight of the failing artist at the loss of his Muse.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Jeremy Webb), desperate to once again don the laurels of a poet, hatches a plan with his counterpart and pre-Raphaelite brother Algernon Swinburne (John Beale) that involves a séance, grave-digging, and domestic disputes with his dead wife and former muse, Lizzie Siddal (Jamie Konchak). Seasoned and impeccably cast, “Gaby” bursts on stage appearing like a Victorian junkie from a Tim Burton film and performs with an in…

So…what about love? ~ Review by Whitney Moran

Rest assured - this is much more than a one-night stand.

The witty, wacky and sweetly eccentric production “So…what about love?” - which originally debuted at the Fringe Festival in Halifax in 2009 - opened to a packed and enthusiastic house at the Neptune Theatre as the SuperNova Theatre Festival continued its final week of performances.

Written and performed by Andrew Chandler, Garry Williams and Amy Reitsma of DaPoPo Theatre (Halifax, NS), the play features three quirky lovers, Helen, Larry, and Willie who suddenly find themselves on stage, nearly naked and expected to perform a musical about love. So, in a pseudo improvised, parodic pageant of ironic musical scores scattered between nostalgic monologues these endearing characters literally bear it all, exploring the arc of like, love, lust, and loss and the unfortunate side effects.

Armed with clever props and costumes, a backdrop of burlesque minimalism and their own personal pianist, the characters spout spontaneous songs and long-…

Dedicated to the Revolutions - review by Stephen Patrick Clare

Imagine if Canadian indie rockers Broken Social Scene were to put down their musical instruments and take up theatre-company props and you might get some idea of how Week 2 of the SuperNova Theatre Festival kicked into gear at the Neptune Theatre in Halifax last night.

Dedicated to the Revolutions is a unique collection of inspiring - and often quite amusing – improvisational vignettes brought neatly together by Toronto’s Small Wooden Shoe.

Spanning the seven most important scientific revolutions in history (Gutenberg, Copernicus, Newton, Industrial, Darwin, Nuclear and Information) the company’s seven young actors take turns explaining the relevance of each innovation to our everyday lives.

Using clever and creative ‘round-the-house props, including tin-cans tied with string, badminton birds, drawing boards and Jenga blocks, the troupe did well to challenge our perceptions about progress - at one point even suggesting that perhaps we have not actually evolved at all as a species over mi…

Bridging the Gulf with Leslie Vryenhoek

By Whitney Moran

Leslie Vryenhoek is a St. John’s-based writer whose fiction, poetry and memoir have been published and broadcast nationally and internationally. Her work has won numerous awards, including the Winston Collins/Descant Prize for Best Canadian Poem in 2010, Arts & Letters Awards in both fiction and poetry, and the Dalton Camp Award. In 2009 she published ScrabbleLessons, a best-selling anthology of stories. Her newest book, Gulf, is a collection of poetry that explores the nature of longing and belonging in a transient world, and how the displaced fool everyone until they feel at home. Recently AE’s Whitney Moran reviewed the new work, and also spoke with the author about the art and craft of writing.

A ‘gulf’ can be thought of as something that separates - a division on either a geographical or even personal scale. A fitting title for her first poetry collection, Leslie Vryenhoek’s Gulf (Oolichan Books, 80pp /$17.95) explores the permanent state of transience and ques…

Sweet Dream - Review by Stephen Patrick Clare

Emile's Dream
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Neptune Theatre, Halifax

The SuperNova Theatre Festival kicked off its 18th season on a high note at the Neptune Theatre in Halifax last night with Emile’s Dream, a 90 minute montage of the life and legacy of Newfoundland fiddle legend Emile Joseph Benoit.

The Black Duck Brook native, who died in 1992 at the age of 79, rose to fame in the 1970’s and 1980’s – well after his retirement as a fisherman - recording three albums and entertaining audiences around the world with his unique brand of Franco-Newfoundland music.

The two-act, three-person performance (courtesy of St. John’s-based Artistic Fraud of Newfoundland) did well to weave a variety of threads into a warm, witty and wonderful biographical quilt.

Set upon a sparse stage of simple floor risers and violins dangling en circle like le grandchandelier, Benoit’s humility and humble nature were gently brought to life through a series of musical and storytelling vignettes.

Sans sentiment, the clever…

Light Lifting with Alexander MacLeod

Alexander MacLeod was born in Inverness, Cape Breton and raised in Windsor, Ontario. His award-winning stories have appeared in many of the leading Canadian and American journals and have been selected for The Journey Prize Anthology. He holds degrees from the University of Windsor, the University of Notre Dame, and McGill. He currently lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and teaches at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. Recently he spoke with AE's Stephen Patrick Clare about his Giller-nominated short-story collection Light Lifting.

SC: What inspired/motivated you to put this collection together?
AM: The collection took such a long time to pull together that I don’t think there was ever any one over-riding feeling of ‘inspiration’ that could be applied to the whole book. Each story was its own project and each had its own challenges. As far as motivation goes, I was just trying to do the best I could with the material I had at hand. In the end, I think I spent most of my time and ener…

Q&A with author Jeff Bursey

Jeff Bursey was born in St. John's Newfoundland and Labrador. He lived for a time in London, England, and now lives in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. His plays have been performed in St. John's and Charlottetown, his fiction has appeared online and in print, and his scholarly articles and literary criticism have been published in many print and online journals in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. His first book, Verbatim: A Novel, was published by Enfield & Wizenty in September 2010. It takes place in a fictional legislature in a fictional Canadian province in the 1990s, and is told in lists of members, letters between bureaucrats, and debates. Recently Arts East spoke with Bursey about the book.

What inspired/motivated you to put this book together?
Verbatim: A Novel came to mind in the fall of 1992 when I worked as a transcriber in the Newfoundland and Labrador Hansard. Every day, looking at the finished document--the Hansard, as it’s called, the publ…

Style & Substance

Pipa Restaurant - 1685 Argyle St., Halifax

By the time you’ve sat down to order in the ambient, candle-lit and stone-walled rooms of Pipa, you won’t feel like you’re in Halifax anymore. I relished in the idea, ordering a full-bodied glass of South American Shiraz (though it was a toss-up between that and Portuguese sangria), and gazed in awe at the menu. I’d never seen so many unique, cultured, and intriguing items listed in one place.

The food is colourful and aromatic. We tried the mango, black bean and avocado salad ($8)—a heaping, well-balanced assortment of flavour for the senses with sweet mango and savoury baby greens.

The soup of the day ($6) embraced the heartiness of a traditional Portuguese kitchen. It was a simple but delicious mix of potato-based broth with onion, garlic and cuts of spicy Portuguese chouriço sausage.

The full-sized grilled chouriço ($8)—served sautéed and flaming—and chicken coxinhas ($7) were bold and piquant. Both were well-cooked and t…


by Pam Callow
Mira / 512 pp / $7.99

Review by Peter Moreira

Kate Lange has a great job, a bubbly personality, a loyal dog, a stylish fixer-upper in South End Halifax and a nasty habit of getting entangled in grisly murders. We learned all that last year in Pamela Callow’s wonderful debut murder mystery, Damaged. Now in its sequel , Indefensible, the junior lawyer at a prestigious law firm must defend her personality-challenged boss, Randall Barrett, whose ex-wife dies mysteriously while visiting Halifax from Toronto with their two children. Randall had left Toronto for Halifax after being cuckolded by Elise, and now she has come to Nova Scotia for a summer vacation. On the night of her arrival, she argues with Randall in front of the kids and hours later falls from a balcony to her death. It sounds like the run-of-the-mill fodder for crime fiction, but in Callow’s capable hands Indefensible exceeds the expectations of the genre. What makes Callow’s Kate Lange series so irresi…

Left Reeling: Melski’s Halifax Debut of The Fly Fisher’s Companion

Written & Directed by Michael Melski

“This isn’t about acquisition, but apprehension, of beauty”

In the Director’s notes to The Fly Fisher’s Companion, award winning playwright, screenwriter, and film director Michael Melski describes his newest play as “not really written, but bequeathed as a gift” from his grandfather. In a similar act of artistic generosity, Melski offers his audience a calloused yet tender two-act production, allowing us too to consider ourselves in receipt of a profoundly resonant, theatrical gift.

Premiering at Ship’s Co. Theatre in 2005 and currently running at Neptune Theatre, The Fly Fishers Companion conjures a tradition of storytelling as entrenched in Cape Breton as the Margaree River itself. It is this tradition and its landscape that serve as the thematic fulcrum for a beautifully layered exploration of the endurance of friendship through the devastation of time and the possibilities of memory.

Featuring two lifelong friends on one last fly fishing t…