I feel the earth move under my feet … Enough gets its Canadian premiere at Northern Light Theatre

Linda Grass and Kristin Johnston in Enough, Northern Light Theatre. Photo by Ian Jackson, Epic Photography.

By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

“In every season there’s one show that scares me,” says Trevor Schmidt. “One show that challenges me as a director or designer. And this is the one.”

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Northern Light Theatre’s artistic director is talking about Enough, the intricate two-hander by Scottish playwright Stef Smith that gets its Canadian premiere Friday in the Studio Theatre in the ATB Financial Arts Barn. “Really difficult!” he says cheerfully. 

Enough is more than enough, theatrically speaking, as Schmidt explains. “It’s structurally unique. There’s first-person narrative, third-person narrative; there’s (dramatized) scene work, there are monologues, there’s movement, there’s repetitive beat poetry stuff, poetic imagery, huge themes, surrealism…. And it all switches on a dime!”

Sometimes one character addresses the audience personally; sometimes one character narrates. Sometimes they have naturalistic scenes together, with dialogue. “The performers have to be super-adept…. It’s a giant jigsaw puzzle.”

So what is this play with an enigmatic title and “a weird omniscience” that loops characters from the climax back to the beginning to fill in the blanks ? Air travel, infinitely aggravating, unreliable, anxious-making as it is in this part of the century, is the backdrop to Enough. In the play, a prize-winner at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe, we meet two flight attendants, long-time friends, who preside professionally, with calm, smiling reassurance, over a contained world 30,000 above the ground. Welcome aboard.

Safety demonstrations abut “fanciful flights of imagination.” And a kind of existential dread has come to haunt two capable women — one married with kids, the other single in an unhealthy relationship. Something ominous is happening five miles below them, they sense. As Schmidt describes, “something on the earth is shifting, changing; they feel it, a kind of groaning under the earth. Something is coming and they don’t know what it is. There’s an undercurrent of anxiety, stress, disaster, impending doom….One reaches into her purse and her purse is filled with sand.”

Enough follows the solo horror show Squeamish in a three-production Northern Light season where all the roles are for women (the finale in April is the one-woman A Hundred Words For Snow, starring Dayna Lea Hoffman). And Schmidt thinks that “so much of this play, though written before #MeToo, is about womanhood,” and society’s impossible demands on women to be “beautiful, confident, sexy, wives, mothers…. How can you possibly be all of these?” 

Schmidt muses on the questions of the play, filtered through its characters. Why do women have to be jealous of each other? the characters come to wonder. “Why do people think that’s the only emotion we can have? I’m not jealous. I’ve made choices that are different than yours. I don’t want your life….”  

“At its core Enough is a play about female friendship, about women supporting each other,” Schmidt says. “We don’t see plays about platonic love very often…. I want to celebrate my female friendships.”

Speaking of which, for Enough Schmidt has paired two favourite actors with whom he’s frequently collaborated: Kristin Johnston and Linda Grass. “I am very fortunate! I get to choose who I work with,” says Schmidt. “Both actors are extremely funny in real life. Both are kind; both have the same kind of work ethic and come really prepared; both are flexible to direct.” Schmidt was sure they’d enjoy working together. “I want us to be happy,” he says of his directorial mantra. We’re not getting enough money to not have fun!”

The complications of the play have required a particularly intense kind of collaboration, says Schmidt. Movement designer is Ainsley Hillyard of Good Women Dance (and soon to be artistic director of Brian Webb Dance Company — “so kind, so creative about articulating movement in a way actors are comfortable to pick up.” She’s been part of the  production from day 1, he reports. So has sound designer Dave Clarke ,  “so joyous so clever. There’s always something witty about his designs.”  

There contributions aren’t mere interesting add-ons, says Schmidt. “For this one you actually need all these elements, or you don’t have the magic…. I think it’s going to something! I think it’s going to be exceptional.”

PREVIEW

Enough

Theatre: Northern Light

Written by: Stef Smith

Directed by: Trevor Schmidt

Starring: Linda Grass, Kristin Johnston

Where: Studio Theatre, ATB Financial Arts Barn, 10330 84 Ave.

Running: Jan. 20 to Feb. 4

Tickets: northernlighttheatre.com

   

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