PICNICS AT THE ASYLUM.xlsx
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REVIEWS
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PICNICS AT THE ASYLUM
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STELLA PRODUCTIONS
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Sunday, August 6 - Angela Neff ends her performance of Picnics with a very nicely articulated resume of her salute to the lasting impression of her father and a personal message to the audience to have compassion for themselves as they go through tough times (because things will get better) and compassion for others (those disquieting figures on the streets) who are also trying to cope with whatever fate has dealt them. She also distributes buttons with her face frozen in the attitude of Munch’s “The Scream”. This is a marvellous choice for her reactions to countless destabilizing episodes caused by her manic father who HAD to have all eight of his children and his wife around him to cope with life, up until his penultimate days (when you attend this production, do read the blurb and the programme handout to understand the final chapter). Frankly, in the performance the unique face of Angela reacting to events – rather than her re-creation of a host of expressions by her siblings and mother – would have sufficed to make this a much stronger family story focussing on father and daughter. The performer-writer has an excellent gift for description and story-telling which she could use to flesh out figures around her as needed. She has already captured a memorable portrayal of her tobacco-addicted father with his sardonic voice. And she does so to darkly comic effect, for instance when he is performing artificial respiration between puffs of his omnipresent cigarette. Instead, Neff is vastly over-generous in demonstrating all of the characters in this autobiography. As well, she has an impressive array of spatial and gestural mime to support and (again) to demonstrate all of the actions. With less scurrying busyness, she would have been free to punctuate her story more effectively, as – indeed – she does with her strong a-cappella singing. She has a large vocal potential and is at her best when she is in loud, character-voice mode. You will follow the story more easily and will appreciate the qualities of her descriptive text, if you sit close to the stage, since very frequently she falls into an almost inaudible recitation. There is in fact enough material in her 60 minutes to create three or four plays, with judicious selection of only the relevant details pertinent to each: a painfully tall order when it comes to autobiographical experience, but necessary to hone an effective theatrical vehicle. With this kind of attention to the reworking of her show, I believe her performance will find the natural and satisfying balance between moments of acting/reliving and story-telling that is needed.
Ian C. Nelson
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Tuesday, August 8 - I really love this play. Angela tells a gripping and heart-wrenching story of growing up with a parent who is unpredictable and struggling with their own demons. She effectively and authentically relates how strong the feelings are of love and frustration, and the struggle to define and be at peace with such a tumultuous relationship. I highly recommend this show. I plan to go again if I have the chance! Heather Lau
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