Hunchback rocks Hugo's tale with brilliant design and storytelling

In many of the adaptations of French literary giant Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the emphasis is on romantic love. But this visually stunning production by Edmonton-based Catalyst Theatre delves deep into the dark side of the classic story. 

The piece, co–produced by The Cultch and Vancouver Playhouse and commissioned by Edmonton's Citadel Theatre, opens on Thursday night and remains running at the Playhouse until March 10.

Resident  designer Bretta Gerecke, artistic director/director/ writer/ composer Jonathan Christenson, choreographer Laura Krewski and sound designer Wade Staples team up for the continuation of the gothic trilogy that began with Frankenstein and then Nevermore, the Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe and finally Hunchback.

Taking gothic tales that Christenson adapts with text and music, Gerecke creates ingenious costumes and sets, while Krewsky adds movement and dance elements to, creates rivetting theatrical experiences.

Having met at the University of Alberta, Gerecke and Christenson have been creating together for 15 years giving Catalyst a very specific aesthetic.

In a phone conversation before the Vancouver previews, Christenson talked about Catalyst’s creative process.

“Bretta and I spend a lot of time dialoguing about the world that the play lives in," explained Christenson. "(In Hunchback), I went back to the novel, reading and re-reading, and then words, music, rhythms started to emerge that didn’t necessarily flow chronologically."

With any new work, workshops are necessary to enable the creators to see if what’s on the page and in their imaginations, are feasible.

“I wrote the first third really fast, and then we workshopped it with Laura, who uses that time to build a physical vocabulary," Christenson said. "A showing with a small audience gave me the feedback to continue."

The previous two shows have used a Gothic sensibility - Edward Gory meets Tim Burton meets high fashion, filtered through Gerecke’s genius - and Hunchback follows that same path. We want to play up the motion of Gothic -- more larger than life, less street.”

Christenson said that he wanted to focus on the "outsider" element in the Hunchback story, which is under-exposed in many other productions.

An amazing cast: Jeremy Baumung, Andrew Cohen, Molly Flood, Beth Graham, Ava Jane Markus, Ron Pederson, and Scott Walters, triple threats all, fulfill the vision of the artistic team.

This is theatre that taps into a younger audience who understands the aesthetic and can appreciate the post modern music and movement. “We capture the spirit of the work and put it in context of contemporary media.”

WHEN: February 18 – March 10, 2012

OPENING NIGHT: February 23, 2012 at 8PM

Feb 18, 20, 22-25, 27-Mar 3, 6-10: 8PM

Feb 25, 29, Mar 3, 7, 8, 10: 2PM

WHERE: VANCOUVER PLAYHOUSE (Hamilton St. at Dunsmuir St.)

TICKETS: from $45 available from Vancouver Playhouse website

Box Office: 604.873.3311 (Hours: Mon-Fri 9:30am-5:00pm) /

ADDED VALUE: Post-show talkbacks: Feb 27, Mar 6

Buy one month get another month free at Budding Children's Garden and Daycare.

More in Arts Beat

Benoît Lachambre and Benjamin Kamino entrance viewers with "Nudity. Desire"

Exciting performance art/ dance is high art entertainment at VIDF. Benjamin Kamino in Nudity. Desire.

Schtick-filled Urinetown abounds with hilarity at The Firehall Arts Centre

Singing and dancing their hearts out in a parody of environmental disaster. L-R Chris Lam, Rosie Simon, Meghan Gardiner, & Anton Lipovetsky in Urinetown The Musical Photo: David Cooper

George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan does justice to riveting historical heroine

George Bernard Shaw’s masterful words are well served by Kim Collier’s Saint Joan at the Arts Club running till November 23 at the Stanley Theatre. Joan of Arc, a teenaged, illiterate, peasant girl,...
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.