Remember the awesome interdisciplinary wonder that was Bears last season? How Matthew Mackenzie’s script, a chorus of dancers from Good Women Dance and Bryce Kulak and Dean Musani’s music blew your mind? And how the production totally deserved the five 2015 Sterling nominations and two wins they received?
Inspired by a woman playwright Matthew MacKenzie is close to, he says The Other is about, “A woman who has always been the other woman. Since high school, she’s been in this pattern where she’s always been with someone else’s boyfriend or husband.” While Matthew says the impetus was exploring why Sharon (played by Amber Borotsik) chooses to be in relationships with men who already in relationships, through working with director Patrick Lundeen, they’ve been able to explore how she is ‘the other’ in many ways. “It’s an exploration of someone who is outside the norm in many ways… She’s pretty obsessed with space and doesn’t see herself as a part of this world so much.”
The Other is a darkly comedic exploration of Sharon’s choice to live as ‘the other’. And Matthew makes it very clear that it is a choice, that she’s not being manipulated into these extramarital relationships – that she is empowered and she is often the dominant one in her relationships, choosing to begin end them as she pleases. The Other doesn’t pander to society’s generally negative view of women who engage in extramarital relationships but is instead an exploration of how that pattern began and continues for Sharon. Matthew says, “Anyone would know what society would say and how they would judge that type of person, but it’s so much more complicated than someone lying and someone cheating. It’s been an interesting thing to look at the human being and the pattern that she’s in and not so much the act and how it’s viewed by society because that’s kind of boring… Sharon is very intelligent and we seem to live in a time when everyone is psychoanalysing themselves. Someone like that is aware of her patterns. She’s conscious of what’s going on. She’s not walking through life blindly with the corner of her brain functioning. That’s part of the humour is that she’s aware that she’s in a pattern, but it doesn’t mean that she can break that pattern. She’s constantly attempting monogamy in infidelity-based relationships, and that kind of that contradiction is darkly funny.”
The Other is the third play of Matthew MacKenzie’s triptych of plays, which use the third person narrative technique, the first two being The Particulars and Bears. For this production of The Other, a large part of the production team also worked on last year’s Bears. Matthew says one of the exciting parts of working on this play has been figuring out how The Other is similar to and different from Bears.
“In Bears, it was so neat to see the possibilities dance allows for in storytelling. It felt like it was almost like a musical where you would go to a point and then you’d have a song then you go to a point and then you had another song. But it was with dance. It felt very cool that dance can speak to the abstract where words sometimes fail us or we would need a lot more words than even a one-minute dance piece can do for a lot of people. We’ve gotten most of our support for the show from the Edmonton Community Foundation to build a proper dance-theatre hybrid. It seems so often dance is in shows, but it’s like, ‘Okay, this little bit will have dance’ and they bring in a theatre choreographer.”
Matthew says Pyretic Productions wanted to ensure The Other was a true partnership between the theatre company and their co-producer, the Good Women Dance Collective. “There’s a true partnership, there’s so much to be mined there. From a writing perspective, I can literally go anywhere. In the piece I go from India to space to a random memory from the night before all very, very quickly and dance allows us to do that in a spectacular way… [Good Women Dance] work so incredibly all year and so when they get into the room, they’ve got this vocabulary and are almost like a military unit where they can immediately start laying stuff down. That happened with Bears, the vast majority of what was in the staging that was Ainsley’s first go. She said it and it was done. That blows my mind. We benefit enormously from that community and that they’re building a community for dance in the city.”
While The Others hasn’t even made it’s first of two premières (it’s Toronto première is in May), Matthew is already looking forward to more collaborations with Good Women Dance. Next year, he’ll be working with Alida Niquist-Schultz to add a dance chorus into The Particulars.
The world première of The Other is at The Roxy on Gateway March 1 – 13 as part of Theatre Network’s Roxy Performance Series. Free student previews (with valid student i.d.) are March 1 and 2, and the show opens March 3. Tickets are $18 – $21, except Tuesday, March 8, when they are two-for-one.