New Uno Fest play delights

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After the curtain closed on Shangri-La, another entry in the Intrepid Theatre’s Uno Fest lineup, I started thinking about how the play got its name. It could describe 14-year-old Jeanne’s room, where she could drown her problems in Calgary beer and bubbly ‘60s tunes, but also that appearances can be deceiving. Shangri-La, often referring to a calm, blissful place, doesn’t describe Jeanne’s life in small-town Alberta.  Through short stories spiraling in and out of dance and dress up scenes, we began to understand that Jeanne’s 16-year-old sister just got pregnant; and that her family, especially her irrational father, didn’t quite know how to handle the news.

The room at the Intrepid Theatre had no more than 50 audience members, but it provided the perfect dynamic with Judy Wensel’s solo performance. The play only had one setting, a bedroom, but it didn’t take away from the show. It wasn’t the acting that made this show captivating, it was the way the producer and actor evoked feelings of family struggle through the innocent eyes of a family’s youngest child.

Shangri-La picks up on the taboos of adultery and out-of-wedlock pregnancies faced by women in the 1960s, especially in small towns like Millard. Jeanne describes other girls who hid their pregnancies, and described how they would be banished to the city so that nobody would see their pregnant bellies. There seems to be a feminist message in Shangri–La about the prejudice and shame brought on women who didn’t follow the lives that were expected of them. It also played up the classic ‘60s attitude that “everything is alright”, and provides a chilling representation of the pop culture in the era, and the tendency to cover up misfortunes that in other works about the ’60s.

The intimate theatre experience at the Intrepid Theatre Club makes it the perfect place for newcomers to come and experience live theatre in Victoria. I would recommend Uno Fest or Fringe Theatre Festival to others who would like to get a taste of theatre and acting for a reasonable price.

Additional performances of Shangri-La are on May 29 at 9 p.m. and May 30 at 6 p.m. at the Intrepid Theatre Club at 2-1609 Blanshard St. (at Fisgard). Tickets are $20. More info at http://www.intrepidtheatre.com/festivals/unofest/uno-shows-2014/.

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