Burning shtick

Fireweeds never really ignites

Despite earnest good intentions Burning Passions Theatre’s inaugural show, Fireweeds: Women Of The Yukon, fails to ignite on stage.

Burning Passions Theatre is a new company dedicated to telling the stories of women’s lives. Fireweeds certainly fits that mandate – it is a loosely held together musical revue about women who set out for the Yukon in search of gold and independence.

The first act takes place during the Gold Rush and features dauntless women escaping Victorian mores in a rugged new land. The second act is set in the present and showcases women who continue to tough it out in the north.

Julian Molnar, Jill Hayman and Ann Bisch portray numerous female characters, including a cabaret girl named Diamond Tooth Gertie, Martha Black, the first female MP of the Yukon, Donna, who lost her husband to a freezing Yukon night and countless others.

Julian Molnar brings to life some of the show’s most believable and quirky characters, such as Belinda the washerwoman who just loves laundry, finds gold dust in her customers’ shirts and goes on to strike one of the biggest claims in the Klondike.

Hayman and Bisch fail to differentiate their numerous characters, who blend together into a generic plucky pioneer gal. But with such bland writing, they can hardly be blamed.

The play’s array of saucy dance hall girls, lonely widows, trashy bar keeps and adventurous Victorian ladies come across as kitsch.

The unfolding relationship of three female friends, who appear as trail blazers in act one and contemporary pals in act two, serves as a sort of backbone for the show’s cabaret structure. However, the relationship between these women never goes beyond chummy and we fail to get an real insight into what propels Yukon women to take on the north together.

Despite a few native characters, the relationship between the new gold rush “immigrants” and the First Nations women already living in the land, is also noticeably underdeveloped.

Writer/composer Cathy Elliot says she was hooked by Yukon magic while working in Dawson City as a performer and inspired by the land’s rich feminist history and contemporary reality to create Fireweeds: Women Of The Yukon.

Elliot set out to smash the stereo-type of Northern pioneers as exclusively men and prostitutes. Unfortunately, the female characters she has created all appear through shticky show tunes and serve to reinforce more stereo-types than they dispel.

Fireweeds: Women Of The Yukon continues till Sat, Oct 7 upstairs at the Canadian Stage ( 26 Berkeley St). For tickets and info call (416) 368-3110.

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Culture, Canada, Toronto, Arts

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