On Friday, I had the privilege of seeing a wonderful little show at the National Arts Centre called Elephant Wake. I’m not going to write a review. However, I will say that I liked it and that it hit me on more than just a cultural stand-point (being from a town divided between French and English lines will do that – though I do wonder how people who cannot speak French appreciated the show?) To me, the show was about loneliness and finding refuge in the past. Though not always perfect, it was beautiful to watch. If you’d like to read a review of the piece, I recommend Jessica Ruano’s at the Ottawa Arts Newsletter. I agree with most of what she says.
No, what really struck me with this production was where it came from. Elephant Wake was originally created as a production for the Edmonton Fringe Festival in 1995. I’ve latched on to this little tidbit of information for over three days now. This was a FRINGE SHOW! Now, almost 15 years later, it was being presented at the National Arts Centre, the Cultural Olympiad in Vancouver and even the Magnetic North Theatre Festival next June in Kitchener-Waterloo.
According to the program, it wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops for the production. When the show was presented at the Edinburgh Fringe, they were lucky to have 8 to 10 audience members a night. One day, they only had 3 people in the audience. Two people left partway through the show apologizing that they did not speak English. I know many actors who would have canceled a production after that, but Joey Tremblay kept going and performed a one man show for one person. It takes an incredible amount of dedication and integrity to keep going (and I’m sure it didn’t hurt that he started winning awards shortly after, guaranteeing a sold-out run for the rest of the festival, but still, he didn’t know that.)
I am realistic. This isn’t easy and not all shows blossom like this. But what hope this fills me with as I try and create my own work!
Elephant Wake is at the NAC Studio until November 14.