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Disarmament theatre

Harold Patton — June 1983

The pages of The Peace Calendar are filled with lectures, discussions and films to see. But we are especially pleased to find that several Toronto theatre companies are presenting a message of disarmament in another medium. Mixed Company’s production of Life on the Line closed May 8th at Young People’s Theatre. Ariel Theatre’s The Great Atomic Bomb Song and Dance Roadshow opened at the Alumnae Theatre on May 12th, and will run until June 11th. And at the Adelaide Court, is the Phoenix Theatre presentation of Last Call: A Post-Nuclear Cabaret, which previews May 24th and 25th, and opens May 26th,

Life on the Line was created by Steven Bush and Allen Booth, and directed by Alec Stockwell. It is a highly original, satirical look at contemporary man, much of it funny, some poignant and all relevant. The three artists involved in the Toronto production at the Young People’s Theatre were Steven Bush, who acted the Monologue; Allen Booth on electronic keyboards; and Ben Cleveland Hayes on drums.

The show opens with an overture of musical sounds and rhythms, and when Bush appeared he was in that dreadful condition of applying for a job. From this point, with accents from percussion and keyboard and a variety of vocal injections, Bush sets out, desperate for security. Then follows life with family, the terror of oversleeping and finding an excuse, then political involvement (neutron bomb, et al), and by the end of the evening, Bush was left in balance, on one foot, and comes to the conclusion that it is time to step out of line.

Bush is an excellent actor with an ability to create a variety of moods with his voice, and to punctuate his lines with satire without overworking it. In all, it was a superb, thought-provoking evening.

It is disheartening that this excellent production cannot be seen across the country. However, there will be a special benefit performance for CANDIS at Holy Trinity Church in Toronto on June 10. and the company will be touring Ontario for several weeks. Keep your eyes open for it.

The Great Atomic Bomb Song and Dance Roadshow uses a very different approach to present their message. The play takes place in the 31st century, while Earth is slowly recovering from almost total annihilation, All nuclear weapons have been banned, yet rumours circulate that the scientists are developing a nuclear device capable of destroying not only the earth but the entire universe. A troupe of travelling actors are preparing a play to be presented on Constitution Day. It is a protest against the re-emergence of the nuclear threat and a warning to the citizens of the earth.

Roadshow is a fast-moving, swiftly paced and well written musical that avoids simplistic solutions to the nuclear threat. B.J. Castleman has both written and directed the production. The vocals are by Chip Thompson and are very cleverly worked into the plot. The musical arrangements are excellent — in fact they are one of the highlights of the entire show, Costumes. special effects — all were excellent.

The cast was well balanced with a great deal of enthusiasm. and, as this was a play within a play, the actors managed to delineate their dual roles exceedingly well. We particularly liked Bill Boyle playing Mareck and Adam, and Shery Leeder as Abby and Miss Cohens. The voice of the Universal Conscience was somewhat over-moralising and heavyhanded, but the singing and dancing were highly professional, and the choreography was refreshing. It was, however, the special effects created by Len and Barbara Japp and Charles Cooper that deserve the final accolades. Roadshow is a thought-provoking, stimulating play, and should not be missed.

The last disarmament-oriented play. Last Call, does not open until after press time, and cannot be reviewed in this article. The play has been presented elsewhere, however, and the enthusiastic reviews it received from the CBC and the Vancouver Sun were echoed in the reception to the Winnipeg, Ottawa and Thunder Bay productions. Morris Paneych stars in the Toronto production and is both lyricist and author. The composer is Ken MacDonald, singer, pianist, actor, etc, The work was especially created for Tamahous Theatre, and is directed by Susan Astley. It is presented in Toronto by Phoenix Theatre at the Adelaide Court, and runs to June 26th.

It is very encouraging to see several such fine productions examining the threat of nuclear war. We hope there will he more entertainment of this sort.