This talented local company…wheels wildly between irreverent humour and reverence for the source material of Irish myths in this draining, exhilarating 75-minute dramedy… – Winnipeg Free Press
Performed with boundless enthusiasm… A heady mix of blood, sweat, tears and laughter, Ulster isn’t for the faint of heart. But if you’re open to its folklore-nerd charms, it’s darn good fun. – CBC
The Hound of Ulster was based on the legend of Cúchulainn, a figure in Celtic mythology. Cúchulainn is the greatest warrior in all of Ireland, because when he fights, he undergoes a “warp-spasm” – a terrifying berserker rage that transforms him into a mad, unstoppable beast. He has the love of a good woman and a steady military career, but can he keep his two selves separate forever?
This was by far the darkest piece we’ve ever done. We wanted to explore the cult of celebrity surrounding Cúchulainn, and the isolation he felt as a result. We also explored the glorification of war. Because these themes are still very timely, and we wanted to confront the audience with that fact, we cultivated a more modern aesthetic style than ever before. Our costumes were inspired by military fatigues, and we performed in a basement, surrounded by concrete. The only aesthetic nod to the story’s mythological origins were swirling blue Celtic warrior-style tattoos that we applied to our faces and arms.
The Hound of Ulster will be our last show for the foreseeable future, as our founding members have all moved to different cities to further their education. But we were very glad to be able to put on one last show before that happened, and we think we went out with a bang.
L-R: Connla (Dan Augusta), Medb (Jessy Ardern), Cúchulainn (Ariel Levine), and Emer (Michelle Arentsen)
We are pleased to announce that this summer we will finally be taking our show on the road! After premiering Cupid and Psyche at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, we’ll be coming to Saskatoon’s PotashCorp Fringe Theatre Festival as well!
The Winnipeg Fringe runs July 18-29, and we will be performing at the Rudolf Rocker Cultural Centre, located at 91 Albert St.
The Saskatoon Fringe runs August 2-11, and we will be performing at Oskayak High School Gym, located at 919 Broadway Ave.
Full show info and advance tickets: Winnipeg / Saskatoon
Links to the Facebook events: Winnipeg / Saskatoon
We hope to see you there!
The Struts and Frets Players will return this July for our fifth Winnipeg Fringe Festival production, Cupid and Psyche! In this Roman story (yes yes, I know, the Romans just stole it all from the Greeks. But this story is specifically Roman), the course of true love never did run smooth for the beautiful mortal woman Psyche, who falls head over heels for…the son of Venus, goddess of love. Oh jeez. No good can come of this.
This year will be the Players’ first foray into the world of “Bring Your Own Venue”: Cupid and Psyche will be presented at the Rudolf Rocker Cultural Centre, 3rd floor of 91 Albert St. (above Mondragon). We are also pleased to introduce our friend and colleague Michelle Arentsen, who will be joining the cast this summer!
As always, more details will be forthcoming as the Festival approaches. We hope to see you there!
Struts and Frets astutely pull together their own special take on Sigurd’s portion of the saga, where pop-culture references abound and a laugh is always around the corner. – Winnipeg Free Press
Sigurd the Dragonslayer was an adaptation of part of the Norse Völsungasaga, the saga of three generations of heroes in the clan Völsung. This is the story that inspired Wagner’s Ring Cycle operas, large parts of the Lord of the Rings mythos, and the Looney Tunes sketch What’s Opera, Doc?.
In the section, our hero Sigurd is trained by his foster father Regin to slay Regin’s brother Fafnir, who has gone mad with greed and turned into a terrible dragon. After Sigurd kills Fafnir, Regin betrays him, and Sigurd kills him too. Now completely alone, he sets off to seek his place in the world. He rescues Brynhild the Valkyrie, and finds first hospitality, then betrayal in the royal hall of the Niflung clan.
For this production, we were joined by our very clever and talented friends Michael Ostry and Hailley Rhoda. Stylistically, we continued to mix and match various design and writing elements: full-colour, translucent plastic shadow puppets; story theatre; our house blend of corny jokes and pathos. Script-wise, we really wanted to focus on the relationship between Sigurd and Brynhild, as well as Sigurd’s personal growth over the course of the story, building on our success with writing the character of Gilgamesh the year before.
For our efforts, we were rewarded with the Best of Fest honour for the third time in four years, and Ariel and Jessy jointly won the Harry S. Rintoul Memorial Award. This is an award given out every year by the Winnipeg Fringe Festival for the best new original script by a Manitoba author. Huzzah!
Pictures below the fold.
[T]he production never overwhelms and comic relief in the form of visual gags and clever wordplay is always elegantly timed to keep the story moving forward. [4 stars] – Winnipeg Free Press
King Minos has a terrible secret. His stepson, the Minotaur, is a half-man, half-bull monster, born of a curse incurred for trying to cheat the sea god Poseidon. Every year he collects human sacrifices from the nations he has conquered to feed the Minotaur, but this year is different. This year, Theseus, a brave young man from Troezen (“Treason?!”) has taken the place of one of the prisoners, and he intends to put a stop to the blood debt. He’ll have to deal with a diabolical king, a flesh-rending bovine abomination and a girl with an obsessive crush to do it, but by Zeus, do it he will.
Our company’s sophomore production premiered at the 2009 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. It incorporated a lot of the same techniques as Perseus had; story theatre, masks and puppets. Doing this allowed us to begin solidifying a distinctive “style” in the minds of our audiences, many of whom had seen us the previous year as well. But we did attempt to stretch ourselves somewhat as well. Perseus was a very comedic, family-friendly show – it was, after all, part of the Kids’ Fringe. Theseus, on the other hand, is a more tragic story, so we had to strike a balance between comedy and drama.
Whereas the designs for Perseus had been drawn from Greek vase paintings (flat and black – perfect for shadow puppets!), Ariel designed flat, wooden puppets for Theseus, to be manipulated live on stage, based on Minoan frescoes, which are far more colourful. (Pictures below the fold.)
Theseus and the Minotaur was well-received by both audiences and critics. It helped us gain a wider audience and demonstrate that we can bring off comedy and tragedy alike. By all accounts, it was another success.
When Al Rae approached us to write a piece to present at the media launch of the 2012 CBC Winnipeg Comedy Festival, he gave us two guidelines: 1) do your thing for 5-10 minutes, and 2) the theme is “Mayan legend and the 2012 ‘Apocalypse'”.
Vucub Caquix and the Hero Twins was the result.
It’s based on a Mayan legend about Vucub Caquix (woo-koob kuh-keesh), a demon macaw who steals the crown of the Sun. The Sun hides in shame, and although the crown continues to produce light, Vucub Caquix cannot provide the nourishment that only the rightful Sun can. With everything going to hell in a handbasket on Earth, the Moon asks heroic
brothers who look absolutely nothing like each other identical twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque (hoo-nach-pu and shball-an-kay) to slay the demon and recover the Sun’s crown. Should be easy, right?
Featuring a bo-staff-versus-two-obsidian-studded-paddles fight and the only pun we’ve ever made that was so bad we actually apologized for it live on stage, Vucub Caquix and the Hero Twins was ten minutes of pure excellence, if we do say so ourselves.
Pictures below the fold.
As we mentioned before, we will be presenting a short piece at the media launch of the 2012 CBC Winnipeg Comedy Fest. With “Mayan legends” as our theme, we chose the hilariously harrowing story of the heroic (but terrible at horticulture) twins who must defeat the demon that usurped the crown of the Sun. Come for the puns, stay for the bo-staff-versus-obsidian-studded-paddle fight.
The event will take place Wednesday, February 22, 11:00 AM at the Gas Station Arts Centre on River & Osborne.