Missed the Shu-Box Theatre show?

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A photo of a stage set up with a fence around it, a gangway to the back right corner leading into a sheet doorway, and various trunks around the gangway and inside the fence.
That sheet at the back is quite catching. Will Bright

No worries, we’ve got you covered! 

All Good Things Must Begin was a play directed by Jennifer Brewin that played at the Shu-Box Theatre at the University of Regina (U of R) from November 1 to 4. 

Like the last two shows I saw at the U of R put on by the Theatre Department (reviews of which are both available at carillonregina.com), All Good Things Must Begin was a series of several smaller plays put into one big show.  

Unlike the last two, I enjoyed the story behind this show. The other two felt jagged, like too many pieces of too many different puzzles trying to be put together. This was one cohesive piece.  

It was easy to identify different characters across different mini-plays. There was always a costume or a prop there to differentiate them. It felt like an experiment, a successful one. 

One complaint that I have about the mini-plays themselves is how they’re ordered in the program; they aren’t in order. They’re categorized by the last name of the playwright, which makes sense, but when I was watching the show, I was trying to look in the program to find the name for the sake of writing this article, and I got confused. 

Since I don’t remember the order of the mini-plays from the show itself, I’ll talk about a few of them in the order they show up in the program. 

Starting with Undertow, Joseph Derksen and Amy Krause as the siblings were a great pair. They had realistic sibling energy, which is something a lot of authors fail to capture. I could’ve believed that they really were siblings having a spat. But, the title doesn’t make a lot of sense. I don’t connect the word ‘undertow’ to a discussion between two siblings about how they’re making changes in their lives to ward off climate change. 

The Polar Bears was such a fun time. It was silly and goofy, and a great offset from the intense opening since it was one of the first few mini-plays to be performed. It was engaging as an audience member to feel like I was being talked to, and maybe I was going to get eaten. It felt like the actors were having fun being silly little polar bears just wanting their pizza because climate change took away the seals.  

It wasn’t in your face about climate change either. It had all the messages you hear all the time about writing letters and calling your representatives, but it didn’t feel like I was being scolded. It felt encouraging. Sophie Cerys Budd was an inspiring polar bear and it made me excited to see what else she was going to do in the show. 

At one point while I was watching the mini-play Inferno, I leaned over to my friend next to me and said, “He is so good at playing a gaslighter,” in reference to Carter Lown as Charlie. And he is. It’s not the only mini-play where we see him flex his fake gaslighting, and it’s always brilliant.  

It feels like a lot of modern media has men as gaslighters, and Lown’s performance is one of the best I’ve ever seen. Sorensen, playing Lola opposite him, had a great flow and the pair had surprisingly good chemistry. 

I loved mirror mirror. While everyone was fantastic, the highlight was Jack Croft, who’s listed as “male voice” in the program but was called “the 1 per cent” in the mini-play itself. It can be difficult to play a character like that, one who yells and screams, because it can often come out as one note. Croft’s portrayal had levels that made it more engaging to watch. As an actor, he reminds me of David Tennant, with his ease in portraying multiple characters and the highs and lows he brings to each one. 

I Had To See felt so unbelievably silly. Silly in a play with a serious topic, like climate change, is so necessary. That sense of silliness and fun was missing in the last play about climate change. Being silly lets the audience have fun. Once again, Croft was a stand-out as Marty the Iceberg who sank the Titanic. Every time he told the audience that he sank the Titanic, it was different, which kept it from feeling repetitive.  

Cerys Budd as Ariel was also great. She was recognizable enough as the Disney character but brought a new life to it. It was her own Ariel, she wasn’t trying to copy Halle Bailey or Jodi Benson, and it showed.  

I can’t not mention Joseph Derksen as Bigfoot. Roles where the character doesn’t speak clearly are often relegated to comedic side characters, but Derksen didn’t do that. He was clear in what he did say and communicated his actions and motives with his body language and physical actions. 

The best mini-play was Transmission featuring Jun Lei. Breaking the fourth wall is hard, especially in live theatre, but Lei did it perfectly. It was the perfect performance to bridge the gap between us as people in the audience experiencing climate change and the people in the mini-plays experiencing climate change. It was needed in the show and I think the show wouldn’t have worked without it.  

Lei moved around the set enough to reach all corners of the round and connect with the entire audience. He was Kevin, but he was also himself in a blend that can only be described as extraordinary and wouldn’t have been possible without the performance of Lei. 

The set didn’t make a lot of sense at times. At first, it seems like a boat, but then it’s not a boat. It was constructed very well. The allowance for props to be hidden inside was a brilliant idea and worked seamlessly for most of the show. Sometimes the actors got a little bit stuck on the sheet that led from backstage to onstage which was distracting. 

At first, I was a little disappointed in the costumes. The plain pants and sweaters felt lackluster to some of the other costumes I had seen. But, that was only the beginning. Once they started donning their ponchos and jackets, slowly, one by one as they played their parts, the costumes were great.  

They connected the characters to each other which made the play feel more well-rounded. That, in addition to the props that were able to distinguish characters from one another, made me love the costumes by the end. I loved how each person seemed to have slightly different colours. 

Does anyone remember when Into the Woods had their 2022 revival on Broadway and there was this incredible puppet for Milky White that drove the internet insane? That’s how I felt when Emily Sorenson walked out from behind the curtain with that chicken puppet. I will never get the image of that chicken out of my head, I have been thinking about it for days. It was so beautifully done and so easily maneuvered. 

In the program, Jennifer Brewin says that All Good Things Must Begin was a “little bit of chaos.” But, the story was the least chaotic I had seen from the Theatre Department. It felt cohesive, it made sense as a whole, and maybe that’s because of the mini-plays chosen, or maybe it’s because of the actors in the show. Either way, it was a good and fun chaos that still pushed the idea of climate change across well. 

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