To Wear A Heart So White

Centre: Lois Anderson and Alex Ferguson Credit: Dan Borzillo
Centre: Lois Anderson and Alex Ferguson
Credit: Dan Borzillo

At The Russian Hall (600 Campbell Avenue) until March 30

Posted on March 28, 2014

After Macbeth stabbed King Duncan in his bedchamber he finds his hands drenched in blood and he begins to panic: “Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood/Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather/The multitudinous seas incarnadine/Making the green one red.”

Get over it, says Lady Macbeth: “My hands are of your color, but I shame/To wear a heart so white.” We’ve always known who wears the pants in that family.

In Leaky Heaven’s latest creation, the Macbeth tale is woven throughout – much altered and much shortened  – but it’s there. And so is a whole lot of other stuff.

Maybe my brain is leaking but I had a hard time pulling all the pieces together beginning with each of us lighting a little candle and placing it before the shrine of either Captain Vancouver, Lord Strathcona, Lord Granville, Lord Hastings or some other dead white guy. Then we found ourselves at a prayer meeting and all rose to join in the singing of “Jerusalem” (words projected on the wall). And then we were watching Shakespeare’s Macbeth – with added naughty bits. Macbeth (Alex Ferguson) buggers his wife (Lois Anderson) and then sodomizes his friend Banquo (Sean Marshall Jr.) in a little forest of live, potted cedars. Birnam Wood?

I read on the Leaky Heaven website that To Wear A Heart So White was “part pilgrimage, part Elizabethan tragedy and part Church service.” So far so good. But the press release went on to promise “a story of conquest and migration, the death of kings, queens, and nature. The birth of real estate.” Not so obvious.

Not that I wasn’t entertained. I was. Truly. How could I not be charmed by two little girls in white dresses who drag a wagon onto centre stage and proceed to unload it with great seriousness. What’s on the wagon? Three stuffed birds (a hen, a grouse and a peahen, maybe) and a stuffed mink (or weasel or river otter?) Once they had carefully placed the creatures around a tray of flickering candles, the adorable little ones skipped off leaving the adults to play with the four taxidermied furred and feathered critters. Which they did whilst offering some voice-over crazy story about Miss TriCity (“sort of chubby”) having her crown stolen.

Alex Ferguson and Lois Anderson Credit: Dan Borzillo
Alex Ferguson and Lois Anderson
Credit: Dan Borzillo

But the high point came with various cast members (and there seemed to be about ten) setting out two banquet tables with white tablecloths in front of the first row of one section of the audience. Wine glasses arrived. Wine bottles arrived. Food was served and ‘the guests’ were invited to partake. And then Lady Macbeth and her hubby arrived, high five-ing and boogey-ing together in a slo-mo celebration of the regicide they had just successfully pulled off. Totally stoked at having become King and Queen, they join their guests at the table, dig into the food, stuff their faces, smack their lips, slurp their wine, eventually abandon knives and forks and dive in like pigs at a trough.

I thought about helping myself to wine but, probably wisely, reconsidered.

To Wear A Heart So White was created by Alex Ferguson, Lois Anderson, Sean Marshall Jr., Nancy Tam, Flo Barrett, Molly March, Alba Calvo, Parjad Sharifi, Camille Gingras and directed by Steven Hill. Lighting design by Sharifi is spectacular with, at one point, a thin ‘layer’ of light spreading like white smoke a meter and a half above the floor.

I should have stayed for the talkback (which happens after every show) to find out what it was all about but my leaky ship had sunk beneath the waves. I was all at sea after fifty minutes and ready to strike out for terra firma.