Jessica Ruano (above) is the Creator and Director of The Ghomeshi Effect, which was created to explore sexual violence, especially in the justice system. The title references former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi, who was acquitted of six charges relating to sexual assault after courts ruled there was insufficient evidence to establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
From a cheese and jam sandwich to Shakespeare’s foils, unusual pairings can reveal new things. This was the case on January 22nd, when Ottawa-based PepTides played the Gladstone theatre in support of The Ghomeshi Effect. which is a “verbatim” dance-theatre piece exploring sexual violence. It’s “verbatim” because the script was created based on interviews with survivors of sexual violence, and the words are presented as they were spoken.
This collaborative fundraiser came about because Amelia Griffin, choreographer for The Ghomeshi Effect, had recently worked on the PepTides new music video: 202 Washington DC. When The PepTides were asked if they wanted to participate in a fundraiser, keyboardist and manager Scott Irving said it wasn’t even a question. “It’s an important piece of theatre and we wanted to support it”.
The Peptides began their set with a dramatic entrance for their song “Homme Love Whore”, followed by a half-hour of feet-tapping, head-nodding, body shaking beats. (Well, torso shaking beats – most people remained seated). Following this introduction, interplay between the two productions began, with actors from The Ghomeshi Effect performing excerpts from the show and contemporary dance to the retro-soul-pop of the PepTides.
While music is no strange pairing to theatre (perhaps you’ve heard of Broadway?), there was something novel about the dynamic that presented itself with this performance. The PepTides were their usual energetic selves – you can tell they have fun when they perform. However, songs that would usually be light-hearted took on new meaning when contrasted with scenes from The Ghomeshi Effect. The dances featured strong physical dynamics, especially in the scenes with several actors. It was about more than the words; the stories were equally told by the expression of movement. It’s appropriate, because these are stories that unfold through the interaction of bodies.
It’s a complicated discussion. How do you speak about power and violence without making people uncomfortable or defensive? How does this reality of intimacy express itself, when the conversation is meant to be inclusive to a broader demographic? Firsthand accounts might only be only revealed to close friends and confidants, and so the Ghomeshi Effect offers a rare viewpoint: a truthful and anonymous accounts of sexual violence, and the impact that these experiences have on individuals and on society as a whole. Bringing these stories together into a single narrative reveals larger patterns about power.
Uncomfortable as it might be, it’s a stark reality. The statistics speak for themselves: in Canada, approximately 1/3 of women and 1/5 of men have experienced sexual assault, and that increases significantly for women who are Aboriginal or transgender. Only about 6% of all cases are reported to police. Stranger danger? Yeah, that’s not a thing; approximately 80% of incidents are inflicted by someone known to the survivor. It’s heavy stuff, but that’s why we feminists need dance parties. Ultimately, you can’t speak about power and its expressions without feeling something. However, this fundraiser only piqued my curiosity to see the theatre piece in its entirety.
As one of the vocalists said, “This is serious subject matter, but we’re still going to have a good time!”. On this front, certainly, the performance was well put-together. The upbeat music of The PepTides broke the tension between sets, and the audience was able to focus on the conversations happening throughout the performance with minimal heartache. By acknowledging and analyzing both the devastating and the uplifting elements of sex, the performance came across as a tribute to, and a necessary critique of, intimacy and modern dating.
Check out The Ghomeshi Effect at the Gladstone Theatre every night until Saturday, January 28th, or catch the reprise at Shenkmen Theatre on Thursday, February 2nd. Ticket price and purchasing information can be found here.
I had the chance to speak with Mo Kenney about her upcoming show at the Gladstone Theatre on January 9. Sharing common ground with the Nova Scotian musician, we were able to talk about favorite aspects of Downtown Dartmouth and what it was like growing up in the Nova Scotian music industry.
Kenney’s most recent album In My Dreams has a different feel then her previous album. Her first album was more acoustic, and Mo did most of her touring solo. With this second album, she began touring with the full band, giving the whole album a full sound when performing live. Meeting local musician and producer, Joel Plaskett in her late teens has allowed her to produce her music and new album locally within Downtown Dartmouth. Writing everything in Dartmouth along with living up the street from the recording studio made it easy to keep her sound locally inspired. “I live like right up the street and Joel lives like a couple blocks away, and it makes it super convenient…” It also gave her the chance to support her favorite local shops while recording, like The Canteen on Ochterloney Street.
East Coast music is often assumed to have a Celtic feel, often supported with Scottish undertones. Mo Kenney does not hold a traditional east coast sound. Though she maintains her east coast roots in her music, Kenney’s latest sound has a much bigger rock-inspired sound. Her last pass through Ottawa was supporting Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, and Northcote who played the Bronson Centre last spring.
Currently, Mo Kenney is working on her third album with the local label, New Scotland Yard. Her show on January 9th put on by Ottawa Music Bus is being held at Gladstone Theatre. Mo Kenney will be playing with her full band so we can expect a night of full sound alongside special guest Shadowhand. Tickets are $25 and doors will open at 7pm. You can find additional information about the show here.
Bonus: When asked what song she didn’t write but wish she had, Mo said Five Years by David Bowie, which she has covered at shows in the past.