Video Credit: Justin Williams
Photo Credit: Helen Murray
A surreal, genre bending UK premiere of Claudia Dey’s acclaimed script, which was named one of the best Canadian plays of the decade by The National Post and 2005’s best play by Toronto’s NOW Magazine.
Set in a remote northern Canadian town, Grace and Sugar Ducharme are infamous twins marked by tragic events from their past: their triplet died in the birth canal, the same day their mother died their father was split in half by lightning, and each year on their birthday Grace finds a dead body. But this birthday will be different – it’s lucky thirty!
Unfortunately for the sisters, a serial killer with a fancy for strippers is on the loose and a nomadic cop killer, Trout Stanley, wanders into their house in the midst of their birthday celebration.
The production was supported with funding from Arts Council England Grants for the Arts.
My production cast an alienating gaze on the script’s conventional love story, subverting its sentimental happy-ending by playing it as a Greek tragedy. This illustrated how the play's camp sitcom style obscured a traumatic subtext. To unnerve audiences in the same manner as the characters, we experimented with ironic and surreal acting styles inspired by David Lynch, which strategically turned the script’s humour against itself making a familiar genre feel suddenly unfamiliar.
Inspired by the script's "Canadian Gothic" conventions, which transposes gothic motifs onto the wild expanse of rural Canada, I created a staging that reproduced the terror associated with the gothic sublime to confront audiences with the sensation of accessing repressed experiences buried deep within our unconscious. Staged on a three-sided thrust, the design's bare wooden cabin with moving walls appeared to float inside a vacuum-like black hole representing obscured spaces within the characters' consciouses. I used visual references from photographer Jeff Wall and painters such as Caspar David Friedrich to create vivid stage pictures conveying terrifying encounters with the sublime and supported these images with visceral rumbling soundscapes from subwoofers.
★★★★ ‘There is never a dull moment… Matt Steinberg directs with style and energy, keeping a necessary rat-a-tat pace. The cast are first-rate, inhabiting this weird world as if they belonged there’ The Arts Desk
‘the bond between Sugar and Trout is touching and Matthews’ wavering voice is tragicomic. There’s fun to be had with Matt Steinberg’s production’ Evening Standard
‘Matt Steinberg’s production proceeds at a good lick and is acted with terrific verve’ The Times
‘benefits from the presence of two fine young actors: the gravel-voiced Sinead Matthews, who lends Sugar a wistful, ragged sorrow, and Vinette Robinson, whose Grace has a rangy, coiled violence and intensity.’ The Guardian