Let The Magnetic North Theatre Festival Draw You In

When it comes to unique theatre festivals, Magnetic North is definitely on the list. Truly Canadian, as the name implies, its eclectic, diverse theatrical offerings move around the country from its home base in Ottawa to a different Canadian city every other year. (Over the past decade, the festival has traveled to Edmonton, St. John’s, Vancouver, Kitchener-Waterloo and Calgary). This year, it is home and while it is in its final few days, there are still a few shows worth catching at various locations across the city. For schedule and locations, visit http://www.magneticnorthfestival.ca.

Winners and Losers is playing at the University of Ottawa in Academic Hall for the next few nights. Partly scripted, partly improvised, Winners and Losers is a funny, entertaining piece of theatre that suddenly twists and delves into some pretty dark territory, all in about 90 minutes.

Two friends, James and Marcus, debate topics and banter with each other, engaging the audience every step of the way. One friend must approach a topic as a winner, the other must take it on the chin as a loser. They tackle everything… no subject is sacred. James and Marcus look at politics, high school, parents, childhood, microwave ovens, Mexico, wealth acquisition and masturbation. They take requests for topics from the audience!
The actors make it all look extremely easy but improv is hard stuff to pull off. They do it well and are both endearing and likeable all the way.

Photo: Simon Hayter
Winners and Losers Photo: Simon Hayter

Then they get into some pretty intense discussions and the conversation gets ugly and brutally honest. They become engrossed in personal attacks and in an amazingly uncomfortable theatrical twist, you aren’t really sure if they are acting or whether you are witnessing a true-to-life pissing match between two friends. These discussions could be a bit shorter as both men are at their best when they are pithy, funny and witty. And yet, because you aren’t sure if it is real or improvised, it works and you roll with it across the difficult emotional terrain.

To see it again would answer the reality question and I am definitely going back to find out.
The beauty of a festival is the variety you can experience. This is definitely the case with Magnetic North, but as you witness eclectic theatre, you will see professional shows with really great actors. You can still see a take on the War of 1812 in the play 1812.



Photography by Michael Cooper.
1812. Photography by Michael Cooper.

In Peter and Valerie, you’ll get an intimate evening with Peter, Valerie and their son Adrien, as they remember a friend with photos, videos and stories. Intimate and intricate details unfold through the course of an evening. Check out www.magneticnorthfestival.ca for all the details.
Top Photo: Michael Cooper