I recently sat down to a cup of coffee with Calli Armstrong and Victoria Hall to talk about the upcoming Montreal premiere of Punk Rock, Simon Stephens’ beautiful and haunting play about teenage angst and the reality of school bullying. Calli, director of the play, and Victoria, a member of the cast, shared some of their thoughts about their rendition of the British playwright’s widely applauded piece.
Calli is artistic director of Beautiful City Theatre, an independent, not-for-profit theatre company whose purpose is to celebrate community through theatre and to offer a nurturing space for performance artists looking to have a positive impact on society. The theatre company has been active since 2012 and their trademark creative process includes addressing themes that are prominent in the current social or cultural zeitgeist. This time they’re focusing on bullying and school violence, a topic in which Montreal has had its fair share of experiences. Together with Natalie Gershtein, the company’s producer, they’ve staged musicals and presided over a series of workshops for teachers and creative ateliers in Montreal.
The staging of Punk Rock, their first non-musical feature, serves as an interesting transition given the important role that music plays in the story. It’s also worth mentioning that the show includes music from actual Montreal punk bands, like The Contanzas, Irish Nails and Mooch. Another interesting part of Calli’s vision for the show is the idea of unsettling art and the creation of safe spaces for frank discussion on touchy issues that can benefit from the empathy-inducing effects of theatre.
Victoria talked about her character in the play, Tanya Gleason, a very social and fashionable girl who struggles with issues of insecurity and self-worth. She also mentioned that the play contains a series of in-between creative scenes that were inspired by punk music and serve the purpose of evidencing the creative process behind the staging of the play. On a related note, the cast consists of current students and recent graduates from the theatre programs at Dawson and Concordia, which provides a window to the up-and-coming talent in Montreal theatre.
At the end of our chat I was left with both a clear idea of what Beautiful City Theatre’s creative vision and the intrigue of finding out what the actual show will look like. So if you’re looking for a thoughtful, nuanced way to address complicated issues through art then you should probably join me this weekend and head to the Centaur Theatre to enjoy what promises to be a really good show.
Punk Rock is running at the Centaur Theatre on May 5-7 & 10-14 at 7:30 p.m. $35. Get tickets HERE.