Review: Arms and The Man

Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre takes a fresh look at a classic with their production of George Bernard Shaw's pacifist comedy.

Jay Hindle as Sergius and Vanessa Holmes as Louka in Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre's production of Arms and The Man.

Jay Hindle as Sergius and Vanessa Holmes as Louka in Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre's production of Arms and The Man.

 

Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre is offering a fresh take on the classics with its production of George Bernard Shaw’s tale of love and war, Arms and The Man.

This pacifist comedy is almost 120 years old, yet the subject matter, the jokes (well, most anyway) and lessons are still relatable today. But it’s the direction by Glynis Leyshon that brings this play into the modern millennia, even if the setting, costumes and story are stuck in the time of the Serbo-Bulgarian war (1885-86), almost 10 years before it was written.

Leyshon’s plentiful use of physical comedy heightened the humour in this satire and reminds us not to take things so seriously all the time (which is a welcome reminder for me, I’ll admit.)

This star-studded cast brings vitality and hilarity to Shaw’s script, with female lead Amada Lisman home from the Stratford Shakespeare Festival to take on her first Shaw as Raina, the Bulgarian Officer’s daughter with hopelessly romantic views of life and war. Raina is engaged to Sergius (Jay Hindle), a solider whose status is more impressive than his fortitude.

Dylan Smith (who played Jacques in Blue Bridge’s inaugural production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It and who most recently understudied Paul Gross and appeared on Broadway alongside Kim Cattrall in Noel Coward’s Private Lives) brings depth in the role of Captain Bluntschli, who climbs in Raina’s window in an attempt to escape Bulgarian soldiers hot on his tail.

Lighting by Rebekah Johnson and sound designed by Brian Linds (who also plays Raina’s father Major Petkoff) are especially exciting during the pursuit scenes, with pounding shells lighting up the night sky (A beautiful snow-covered stand of birch trees skillfully painted and recycled from Pacific Opera Victoria’s production of Vanessa last season).

Recent UVic grad Nathan Brown did a remarkable job with sets and costumes, giving the production an elegant and earthy feel. The simple-yet-grand window in Raina’s bedroom and her four-poster bed built from tree branches almost appeared to be growing up from the ground she walked on. The ahem … lllllllibrary , what could have been a full-time job to build, was represented by small, artfully placed stacks of gorgeous antique books.

Refined dresses, luxurious robes and fancy waistcoats for the aristocracy, impeccable military uniforms for the soldiers and the gypsy-inspired dress for sassy servant Louka (newcomer Vanessa Holmes) brought us perfectly into Balkan high society at wartime.

Holmes performed with such ambition and confidence that it made the maid stand out, even putting her on the same level (or even higher) intellectually than those she served. Leyshon’s choice not to give Louka as much physical comedy as the rest of the characters also added to this notion.

Another stand out was Jacob Richmond as servant Nicola, who made his entrance with the elegance of a maladroit hunchback. It was a pleasure to watch him, almost as in slow motion, as he bumbled along, messing up almost ever order he was given.

Leyshon’s choice to go heavy on the physical comedy was a good one especially when it came to this roll, as it made another servant stand out when he could easily have faded into the background.

Amanda Lisman as Raina was a ton of fun to watch, especially those moments when even she gets tired of the game of romantic charades she’s been playing. Lisman‘s portrayal of Raina’s more authentic alter ego was a refreshing blow to the upper-class farce she’s been living, leading to some of the most genuine moments in the show, which can seem a little silly at times. But the theatre was filled with laughter opening night and people having an entertaining night out at the theatre. M

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Everett Bumstead (centre) and his crew share a picture from a tree planting location in Sayward on Vancouver Island from when they were filming for ‘One Million Trees’ last year. Photo courtesy Everett Bumstead.
The tree planting life on Vancouver Island features in new documentary

Everett Bumstead brings forth the technicalities, psychology and politics of the tree planting industry in his movie

Scaredy Cats television series has turned Empress Avenue in Fernwood into a Halloween themed neighbourhood. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Trick or treat! Halloween comes to Fernwood in January

New television series Scaredy Cats filming in Victoria

Cindy Foggit plays the lead role of Eliza in Passion and Performance’s film production Eliza: An Adaption of a Christmas Carol. (Courtesy of Rachel Paish)
Victoria adult dance studio releases modern adaption of A Christmas Carol

Instead of usual stage performance, dance studio turns to film

There are many options for enjoying a meal out locally during Dine Around and Stay in Town, on now through Feb. 7. (10 Acres Commons)
Dine Around Stay in Town Victoria carries added importance during pandemic

Special menu items for eat in or takeout/delivery, staycation deals available through Feb. 7

Peter Crema and Harmony Gray (from left), past participants of the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s Code Switching teen art group, at work in ArtLab in 2019. The NAG will be expanding the space thanks to a $75,000 arts infrastructure program grant. (Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Art Gallery, Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre receive new arts infrastructure funding

Province announces recipients of funding through B.C. Arts Council program

Ty Wesley, Nicole Darlington and Cameron Macaulay (from left) performed in the Beholder Entertainment production <em>Gender Sucks!</em> in the 2020 Nanaimo Fringe Festival. (Video still courtesy Sam Wharram)
Nanaimo Fringe Festival artist lottery open to local and B.C. playwrights

Organizers hope to stage plays in-person at indoor and outdoor venues this summer

Canadian singer-songwriter-actor Joëlle Rabu will join her son, Nico Rhoades, for a livestream performance courtesy the Tidemark Theatre Jan. 29. Photo submitted
Mother/son powerhouses Joelle Rabu and Nico Rhodes join forces for Island livestream

Campbell River’s Tidemark Theatre hosts online music revue

Dr. John Hooper is the new conductor of Island Voices. Photo supplied
Island Voices welcomes new conductor

Dr. John Hooper to lead mid-Island based choir

Jorie Benjamin does a modern dance performance to ‘La Vie en rose’ by Édith Piaf, Louis Gugliemi and Marguerite Monnot, choreographed by Elise Sampson during the Cowichan Music Festival’s Highlights Concert at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre on March 1, 2020. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Cowichan Music Festival cancelled for 2021

The festival had already been limited to solo performances only for 2021

<em>Chinook Salmon: Breaking Through</em> by B.C.’s Mark Hobson was selected among 13 entries as the winner of the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s Salmon Stamp Competition.
Stained-glass lighting casts a win to B.C. salmon artist

Painting of chinook is Mark Hobson’s third win in annual contest

Apollonian means “serene, calm, or well-balanced; poised & disciplined”. The natural photo art for the album includes Vancouver Island mountains, rivers and beaches. Scenes from the Cowichan River, Witchcraft Lake, Pipers Lagoon, Wall Beach and other popular Island recreation destinations accentuate the album. (RICHIErichieRichie Music Publishing photo)
Serenity Now! Richie Valley debuts third LP dubbed Apollonian

Apollonian means “serene, calm, or well-balanced; poised & disciplined”

Most Read