Something strange is happening at the fabled Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto. The auditorium is completely empty and a performance is taking place. No, this is not a theatrical disaster. The audience is on the stage and they are watching some bravura acting that is almost as rare as the Royal Alex being empty.
The play is Terminus by Mark O’Rowe produced by a theatre company called Outside the March. The programme cover says Off-Mirvish and The Second Stage Series without any explanation but I am sure they mean something.
The “play” consists of several monologues, dramatic poetry recitations, really, by three actors who are simply referred to as “A”, “B” and “C” in the programme. They are Maev Beaty, Ava Jane Markus and Adam Kenneth Wilson.
During the ninety minutes of the play, each actor is confined to a small space, faces the audience and recites rhyming couplets in a highly musical Irish lilt. The poetry is accompanied with some gestures and dramatic and sometimes comic vocal modulations that are quite exceptional.
The play takes place in Dublin and the stories that they actors tell range from the bizarre to the more bizarre. They are not always easy to follow and the acoustics of the Royal Alex stage seemed to be against them. There were times when I found myself listening to the music of the poetry rather than the actual words.
The idea of listening to rhyming couplets for ninety minutes may sound like a monotonous bore but the three actors involved have a poetic sense to deliver the lines without making them sound repetitious. That is no small achievement.
Wilson’s character stands out as the goriest. He is a homicidal maniac who gives graphic descriptions of sexual perversions and sadistic murders. The man sells his soul to the devil in a Faustian deal in exchange for women; someone fall off a crane and there is blood and disgusting acts everywhere. The whole thing takes place during one night in Dublin. As I said not everything is clear, the script does tend to fade but the outstanding acting by Beaty, Markus and Wilson never falters.
Mitchell Cushman directs the production, which is designed by Nick Blais. This production originally opened at Toronto’s Summer Works Festival in August 2012.
Terminus is not a completely easy take for those who go to the Royal Alex without any preparation. Outside the March theatre company does its best to be unhelpful. There is a couple gushing notes by the director and actor/producer Ava Jane Markus but there very little useful information at all. In the equally useless Who’s Who in the programme, they do not bother to give any information about the author or provide some information about the play. To be fair, their website does fill in some of the gaps.
Terminus by Mark O’Rowe opened on November 21 and will run until December 9, 2012 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King St. W. Toronto, Ont. www.outsidethemarch.ca