Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Less is more. Function over style. Say a little by saying a lot. A whisper is louder than a shout.

No, I am not collecting platitudes. A couple of recent pieces of entertainment have me thinking about how you can often say a lot by saying very little.

THE BLUE DRAGON is a  production of a Robert LePage play currently showing at the Royal Alexandra Theatre here in Toronto
LePage is known for his innovative staging and use of multi media and that was all on display here. LePage uses lighting, moving stages, projections etc. to not only establish location and to advance plot points, but to illustrate the emotion and mental state of the characters.
But for all its spectacle, Blue Dragon is very much about characters. It is, in actuality, a small play. There only three characters in the play. Pierre (played by Henri Chase) is a Montreal artist who has left behind his family and his status and his art to move to China to become an art dealer. Claire (Marie Michaud) is an old friend and lover who gave up her career as an artist to work in advertising; she comes to China to adopt a baby. Xiao Ling (Tai Wei Foo) is a young Chinese artist and, as the play opens, Claude's lover
The play is about changes and relationships and how until we deal with our pasts, we can't effectively move forward in the future. It is in a way a classic triangle; Claude and Marie have never really dealt with their past and the validity of Claude and Xiao Ling's relationship is called into question. It is a small play, dealing with the lives of these three people but it is also larger than that. The play addresses issues with Communist China, it examines loss and commitment, it concerns itself with a person's individual right to grow and how systems both free and close market validate those rights.
These are big issues, but dance (performed and choreographed by the incredibly multi talented Foo) and staging aside, we are presented these issues in the context of these three characters and their interactions. In a small way, that has far more impact than any prosthelytizing ever could. Such issues may make for interesting conversation but when they become part of human being with whom we identify, they become impactful.

Less is more also became an effective strategy in a musical forum.

ME N MABEL  is the new recording my Suzie Vinnick. Suzie is a local musician of whom Collette and I are quite fond. We have seen her perform as part of the Women's Blues Review and I have a couple of her CD's but this new one presented to her in a whole new light
Suzie is a full time Canadian musician and that means she has always found a variety of ways to make a living through her art. She is an established studio musician (she plays several instruments) works in a couple of different live bands, sings and writes jingles and has collaborated and recorded with Rick Fines.
Suzie is a great singer and I have loved when she sings the blues; her own recordings are a mix of blues, country, light pop and some  jazzie influences. I have always known that she is a talented guitarist. When I first saw her perform some 10 years ago her featured instrument was the bass but I know she also can play pretty much any kind of guitar. But Mabel N Me is a different enterprise. Mabel is her six string acoustic guitar and it is the only instrument she plays on the majority of the songs
The entire album is bluesy in nature and I looked forward to this but it is Suzie's guitar playing that is the revelation here. All alone, just that wonderful smokey voice and with Mabel I realized that Suzie Vinnick is not a good guitarist, she is a remarkable guitarist. The word virtuoso comes to mind but she is more soulful than that term implies. The record is aptly named; this is Suzie and Mabel, both at the top of their games.

By doing less, Ms Vinnick gave me more. And it's the kind of "more" that is all that I could want.

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