Three cheers for Uno Fest

Uno Fest

Metro Studio +

Intrepid Theatre Club

May 8-24, 2015

Only an issue as urgent as the extinction of marine life through ocean acidification – the subject of Alanna Mitchell’s 2009 book Sea Sick – could have compelled a newspaper journalist to take to the stage. As she said herself, on the last night of Sea Sick (May 14) at Victoria’s Uno Fest, “this is breaking all the rules.” Journalists are the messengers, not the message, but this was an important story that Mitchell lectured on with her book’s publication. Toronto artistic director Franco Boni saw the potential for a one-woman show and with Ravi Jain helped the writer create a script to ignite audiences across Canada.

Mitchell’s storytelling skills and self-deprecating humour easily adapt to the theatre. Casually, she relates her own story: growing up on Prairies, nurtured by her artist mother and zoologist father. Hence a natural curiosity, drive to investigate and gift for painting narratives in words.

Three years ago, Mitchell, a mother of two, set out to document the accelerating crisis in the world’s oceans: 99 percent of the planet’s living space. Her findings are alarming, to say the least. Way, way down under the sea in a submersible, she got a first-hand glimpse of extinction underway. Literally drawing her conclusions on a chalkboard, Mitchell spells out the doomsday scenario: with warming comes acidification, killing essential marine life. Without plankton, no oxygen; with no life in the oceans, no life on land. Despite the chilling stats she rhymes off, this journalist-turned-actor brings a message of hope that humanity is finding ways to save the planet.

Sea Sick is the sort of innovative, edgy performance that Victoria’s 18-year-old Uno Fest of solo performances showcases. Each May, the three-week festival presents an engaging line-up of shows from Canada, and occasionally abroad, to unsettle and entertain us, including works in development with Intrepid Theatre Club. The final four days of Uno Fest features seven different one- to two-hour shows and the short, short (15 minutes) UnoWorks-in-progress. Not to be missed: Mark Hellman’s adaptation of Pete Seeger’s The Incompleat Folksinger; Zoë Erwin Longstaff’s Half Girl/Half Face; The Rendez-vous, a cabaret show from Krin Haglund; Jayson McDonald’s Magic Unicorn Island; Slick, by Karen Lee Pickett; and Shirley Gnome’s sultry musical, Real Mature.

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