From science fiction to steampunk, Songs of the Seer is the latest (and final) Creative Collaboration from Next Folding Theatre Company. The main company consists of 10 theatre artists who, in addition to performing, are credited with writing and directing Songs of the Seer. The production features a supporting cast of five actors, and cameos by NFTC alumni.
The Provincial Union of Jorn has occupied the Territory of Huff. The territory sits on a rich deposit of Aether, an energy source highly sought after by the Icarians. The occupation is depicted through scenes that explore different sides of the war, from Huffian revolutionaries to the Icarian inner circle plotting a final solution to ordinary people trying to survive another day.
Don’t expect a lot to be explained in this collection of steampunk short stories. The basic premise is fairly straightforward, but the mythology is dense to the point of being an obstacle. Which is too bad since the play seemingly wants to discuss colonization, marginalization, and the nature of conflict. Instead, Songs of the Seer unloads a lot of information and hopes its audience can keep track of character names, their affiliations, and how they play into the larger scheme.
There are bright moments in the show. In Act One, a Huffian father (Miguel Roy) is visited by a friend (Alex Rioux) who has come to recruit the man’s only child (Esther Soucoup) for the war effort. It’s an emotional scene that presents a character who, despite their best efforts to hide, finds themselves personally affected again by the conflict. The opening scene of Act Two focuses on two Icarian guards (Brianna Parker-Tarasco & Scott Shannon) who go back-and-forth about morality. The scene does a good job of mixing humour with the play’s major themes. Later, an Icarian maid (Melissa McMichael) tells her co-worker (Shannon) about the sinister plans she overheard late one night and how she plans to run away. The maid is caught speaking against the Provincial Union and sentenced to death, sacrificed in a ceremony that the staff had been preparing only moments earlier. It’s a chilling scene.
Still, the production has difficulty justifying its approximate runtime of two hours and 30 minutes. And then, it abruptly ends with characters from NFTC’s Fred Nebula crashing the play. That’s right, NFTC has established their own ‘cinematic universe’. It’s totally absurd and hilarious, well if you saw the show last year and aren’t wondering who these characters are (played by Elizabeth Goodyear, Robbie Lynn, Michael Holmes-Lauder).
Costume Designer Kat Hall integrates masks and capes into the production with good results. Samuel Crowell’s set and prop design is simple but strikes the right tone for this steampunk fantasy.
Presented at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre, Songs of the Seer is the Next Folding Theatre Company’s final production.
Next Folding Theatre Company’s Songs of the Seer ran March 14 – 16 at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre.
Main Company (Writing/Directing/Acting:
Supporting Cast (Acting):
Neomi Iancu Haliva