The Shape of Home is a show about the life and works of Al Purdy currently being presented by the Festival Players in the Studio Theatre at the Streetcar Crowsnest. Actually I think it’s about a lot more than Al Purdy. It does tell his story and use his poems as song material but in the creative process something a bit magical happened. It was created during lockdown using Zoom with the creator/participants messaging back and forth with ideas, snippets of songs and (mostly dark) thoughts. The creative process must have been gruelling and at times disheartening but the final result is a show of high energy, and humour. But above all it’s life and art affirming. Performed in the tiny Studio Theatre it’s also very intimate. For the first time since the theatres reopened I felt I had got my old life back.
There’s a lot in Purdy’s poetry and how one reacts to it is likely a function of where one has been; literally and figuratively. There are poems about building a house in the middle of nowhere, a fight in a bar, large animals mating and the desperate hard scrabble country between the lake and the Madawaska Highlands where many tried to farm and all failed and only a collapsed barn or a stretch of rotting corduroy marks their passing. And those are the ones that spoke loudest to me. Your experience would surely be different.
I can’t speak too highly of the ensemble who pulled this together; Frank Cox-O’Connell, Beau Dixon, Hailey Gillis, Raha Javanear, Andrew Penner and Marni Jackson. Everybody (except Marni who acted as dramaturge) performed. They sang, they recited and they played a remarkable variety of instruments; piano, multiple guitars, mouth organ and brass up to, and including, a Wagner tuba. Raha played violin/fiddle in a variety of styles quite beautifully. And I think they were enjoying themselves.
It’s running until September 25th and is definitely worth seeing.
Photo credits: Dahlia Katz