Mae Brecht’s Sex

Earlier this week we drove down to Niagara-on-the-Lake to see the Shaw production of Mae West’s Sex at the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre, directed by Peter Hinton-Davis.

I thoroughly enjoyed the production. The play itself contains very little actual sex but is about the manipulative power of sexuality, reputation & commodification of sex – i.e. sex for sale as opposed to sex for pleasure (neither of which are proper). I loved the use the Brechtian stage techniques that gave the play a non-Broadway sensability. In fact the production values were, as one would expect from Shaw, excellent. Starting with the perfectly curated house music that set the time period, the costumes were exquisite, the use of suitcases – literally living out of a suitcase for the first scenes – was fun & the choreography of their use was well handled by the cast.

The musical numbers were lively or compelling when need be, & well-performed. I love on stage musicians. The saxophone, tuba, & banjo had the feel & sound of Brecht-Weill’s work. The cast also clearly enjoyed these opportunities to bust loose. I fact these were the only times I felt the cast actually enjoying themselves.The decision not to ‘camp’ it up was a good one but it also drained this production of energy. The text was, for the most part, treated too soberly & slowly. I think if it had been delivered a bit quicker it would have been stronger. The plot was sturdy, the subtext of women struggling to have agency over their sexuality was powerful – a struggle still continues today. 

In fact I think the ultimate ‘obscenity’ in the eyes of the powers-that-be was Mae West’s fearless control of her sexuality & the financial success she had achieved as a writer/performer. The censors were pissed that she was a woman making money. If it had been a male playwright he would have probably been lauded for being so progressive.

I found that the performance of Diana Donnelly in the lead as Margy was lacking in spark. She never felt invested in the character except for her scenes with the excellent Fiona Byrne’s Clara. Margy’s monologue in Act 2 about sex was Diana’s best moment. Kristopher Bowman as Roc never felt threatening, perhaps he wasn’t meant to be threatening. André Sills as Lt. Gregg had a charming sexual presence, despite a cartoonish British accent.

It’s impossible to separate this play from its author & the place it has in the history of censorship. Then it was seen as the eroding of the moral fibre of the American family values – perhaps it succeed as today, nearly 100 years later, it is innocuous; but women are still being shamed for taking agency over their sexuality.

other reviews:

Costume Warehouse Tour – Me? Caped Crusader

Henry VIII – ‘Abject Object’ 

Our Father Issues

Cape Breton (Liberation Army) Day 7

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Jane, Jellyfish, Jem, Jet, and Dracula

Music styles come & go in a retro flow of rediscovery & reinvention. way back in the early 90’s there was a resurgence of sixties psychedelic pop. One band was  Jellyfish with mix of Hollies, Beatles & Procol Harum. I have stand-alone Bellybutton, & Spilt Milk in an mp3 collection. Smart songs, romantic, acerbic & beautifully engineered. If you miss them then search them out now.

Another retro sound band from the early 2000’s is Australian band Jet. I have stand alone Get Born with its Revolveresque cover it is clear where their retro roots are. More punky that Beatles though with a strong Kinks feel they are high energy sweetness.

Sticking to ‘j’ is an mp3 collection that includes jem: finally woken/Down To Earth. The Swingle Singers sample that grounds the title track of her first lp delighted me. I had this as a stand alone then downloaded Down To Earth to start off this collection. All the tracks are fun, her voice is appealing, the samples are consistently surprising. Similar to Dido but less depressing 🙂

To round out this mp3 cd I added some very eclectic stuff starting with the Mike Vickers soundtrack to the film Dracula A.D. 1972. His music for this is serious electronica that is much better than the movie, set in decadent, swinging Carnaby Street. In the film is also music from White Noise, whose album An Electric Storm, I tracked down to add to this collection.

Featured in the film is a rock band whose lead singer’s voice I recognized instantly. Sal Valentino formerly of the Beau Brummels. Here he fronts the band Stoneground. So I added their self titled lp & its follow up, Family Album. He has one of the best voices in rock of that era. 

Wait there’s more. Another helping of electronica with Edwin Morris’s The Sun Sets. Then Maryem and Ernie Tollar: Cairo To Toronto – I hear Maryem do a music set at a spoken word show & enjoyed this fusion world music.

Finally – to make this cd even more eclectic is Jane Morgan: The Big Hits From Broadway. Jane was a major 50’s, early 60’s, nightclub chanteuse with a strong crisp voice. She recorded extensively & I enjoy the retro quality of the arrangements of these fun show tunes.


Nice Rolls

‘You know, this is one of those days when I really can’t think of a thing – of a way to start what needs to be started.’ Jim looked up from the table.

‘Would you like a few more minutes to think it over.’ The waiter stepped back.

‘No, no. I don’t have all day & I know neither do you. But what would you suggest?’

‘The daily specials are always fast. The cannelloni looks good.’

‘Then that’s what I’ll have. Thanks.’ Jim was always relieved when he could get someone else to make a decision for him. The less he had to think the better. The more other people decided the more he could blame them when things weren’t that good. Cannelloni? What was that anyway? He’d soon find out.

A child started to cry in the restaurant.

‘Just you stop that.’ a mother whispered.

The child began to cry louder. A dish broke.

Why had he come here? This was a mistake. He’d never been here before. Rarely dined out alone, to begin with. But there was that thing from the newspaper, framed in the window that said … what did it say? … good food. Did he even read it or had he just glanced at it and assumed it was a good review. After all, restaurants rarely posted unkind remarks about them in the window.

‘I said, be still.’ the mother’s voice rose to match the squeals of her child.

‘I will not. Won’t.’ The child banged on the table.

Jim wanted to look, to turn around and see just what the ruckus was, but couldn’t. He didn’t to be seen as one of those types who had to take  gander at everyone else’s misfortune.

There was a smack. Sobs. Silence.

Well that settles that. He wouldn’t be back to this place in the near future.

‘Here you are, sir.’ the waiter put a covered bread basket on the table. ‘Your cannelloni with be here shortly. Enjoy.’

Jim lifted the linen off the bread basket. Heavy, expensive linen that impressed him. Three kinds of rolls inside, and all warm. Soft butter! That was certainly worth suffering through the slap of a child for. He broke open a roll. Warm, rich smell of rosemary came out of it. The butter spread and melted into the bread. 

‘I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.’ the child erupted.

Jim chewed his bread slowly, savouring it.

‘I wish I had never been born. I wish …’

‘Please keep your voice down Cody. You are bothering the other people here.’

‘I don’t care. I hate this place. Stinking hell hole. That’s what it is.’

Stinking hell hole – where did a child hear something like that? Such a cute turn of phrase though. Yes, nice rolls, very nice rolls. He’d have to tell his friends.

every Tuesday 2019


Stratford Festival – Nathan The Wise

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton
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Shaw Festival – Sex (Mae West)

Stratford Festival – Little Shop Of Horrors

June  – Capturing Fire 2020 – Washington D.C. 

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Hair Annie Shop Chorus Dolls and The Who

I remember coming across the off-Broadway cast recording of Hair when I was living on the east coast. The lp cover included writers/performers Gerome Ragni and James Rado. I bought it & was blown away by the concept & by the sexy, brave  songs like White Boys, Black Boys & the energy of Elevator Going Down & of course the title song. My buds at the time didn’t get it & were even less impressed with them, why – sappy Cowsills had a hit with Hair. I loved that lp & played it often & it is now safe in an mp3 collection. I’ve never found this original lp in any other form, until recently, so I have an lp to cd transfer that I combined with the on Broadway cast. 

The book changed somewhat by the time it hit Broadway. Some songs were dropped, new ones introduced. The sequence of what story there was changed as well. The nude finale was part of its initial appeal. I have seen Hair on stage a couple of times. The movie has great energy but way too much story. 

Writing this post I decided to upgrade my Hair from lp to cd and found, on iTunes, a set that paired the off-Broadway & the on Broadway. sweet. I was missing so much of the sound with my transfer & these crisp versions are amazing. Reminds me of why I really loved that off-Broadway cast album. Both include songs left out due to time limits of lps. A treat you deserve. I want to meet a boy named Frank Mills 🙂 

In this song & dance mp3 collection I’ve included: Annie Get Your Gun: Betty Hutton. Anything You Can Do was one of those songs by Dad loved and bother & sisters would spend a few minutes doing anything better with him. Many of the songs are standards. Betty Hutton is fine but everyone wishes Judy Garland had done the movie. But Judy did record some of the songs for the movie & her versions are amazing & only add to the the regrets that she was dropped.

Like many of these mp3 collections this one jumps everywhere & now we land on the soundtrack to one of my favourite movies: Beyond The Valley of the Dolls. Trashy, sexy, exploitive & melodramatic & not to be missed. One of my favourite Russ Meyers film. The music is excellent too. The songs for Carrie Nations – girl group centre of the movie are real  & as on point as those in Spinal Tap. I watch Beyond movie every couple of years.

Not so with Little Shop Of Horrors – having seen it on stage the movie doesn’t capture the energy. The songs are great, the performances are good too but the mutant plant is just a little too good for this little shop. Steve Martin as the dentist is great. 

Another disappointing stage to movie was A Chorus Line – I’ve also seen this on stage. The movie soundtrack is solid but lacks energy. Plus a soundtrack to a movie in which the big focus is on dance seems a bit ironic. Though I do have ballet scores that don’t need dancers to come alive when I hear them. Tits and ass will get you far.

Finally Quadrophenia – I loved the original album, love this movie version as well in which the songs were re-recorded with a bit more soundtrack appeal, I guess. A little more synthesizer & other keyboards. Some of these were telling my story. The movie is excellent as well. I’ve been out of my mind on more than the 5:15. The real me is now seen looking for a man called Francisco Mills.

Dear Santa                          

Dear Santa:

Please bring my Mom a new stove for Christmas so she can continue to cook up lots of wonderful food for us all year long. I know she needs a new stove because my dad says he longs for something in the oven so I won’t be so lonely. The oven of our stove is broken or something so please bring us a nice new stove. 

Please bring my Dad some new socks as my mom says his taste is socks stinks, as does his taste in most things. Her food tastes pretty good to him though and he always tells her that but if you could only bring him some nice socks so his feet wouldn’t stink. And some new sweaters too. He always wears the same old ones around the house on the week-end and even I get tired of that. 

And for me I want  to be able to hide and never be found, to win at hide and seek. I always get caught so please give me the ability to hide where I can never be found out until I want to be found out. 

I’d also like a building set to make the walls around me as nice as the one my mom says my dad has around him. She says sometimes she can’t see over it, when I can’t even see the wall she sees. So maybe you could bring me the magic glasses like the ones she must have so I can see the walls around people like she does. And also the building blocks like I said so I can build those walls too, as Dad says that’s the only protection he sometimes has between him and the rest of the world. They would be a great place for me to be never found.

If you don’t have any of those building blocks maybe you could bring me a sense of self worth. I’m not sure what that is but my Dad says my Mom really needs more of it and if she does so do I. He says things would be fine if we had a more realistic sense of self worth. I guess I’m worth about as much as he thinks I’m worth so I’m not sure what all that means but please bring me some of that as I know I’ll need it to build those walls around me when I grow up to be like my Mom and Dad.

I’d also like to have one of those magic sleep pillows I see on TV that give people nice dreams of running though fields of flowers. My dreams are never like that, in colour and with such pretty music. So if you can find me one or two of those pillows. I know life isn’t a dream ‘cause my dad says that a lot and I don’t expect it to be but if  I could  have some nice dreams at night I know I would be a better little boy in the day time. Dad doesn’t know what gets into me sometimes and neither do so please bring me one of those pillows because I know if can have some nice dreams get into me during the night then I would be much better in the day time.

The last thing I want is a way out of all this. We all want that. My Mom and Dad keep asking one another if they can see a way out of this. I say look there’s the door and my Mom laughs and says that to my Dad. She shows him the door but he doesn’t want to leave that way. He says she’s not getting out that easy either so please bring a way out that isn’t a door. I don’t know what that might be but I’m sure you do. Cause if you can find a way into our house without a chimney than then there must be another way out that isn’t a door.

thank you for every thing


every Tuesday

September or October – feature – The Art Bar, Free Times Cafe

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