What You Want (Vancouver)

What You Want is an Outrageous Sex Comedy (18+) for Those Who Haven’t Grown Up Yet

MachineFair returned to the Vancouver International Fringe Festival in 2010 with What You Want a play about Vancouver and its current inhabitants.

In 2001, Andrew Templeton returned to his hometown of Vancouver after a fifteen year absence. What You Want is the almost-true story of what he found. Weaving a one-man show through the stories of four characters, the play probes the sexual desires and foibles of a city that is at once real and imagined. A play that proves you can't go home because it isn’t there anymore.

Featuring: Rachel Aberle, Gillian Bennett, Russell Bennett, Sean Tyson

Writer & Director: Andrew Templeton

Assistant Director & Designer: Kyla Gardiner

Producer & Graphic Design: Jill Margo

Stage Manager: Jo Gray

Critical reaction to What You Want

Writing in the Georgia Straight, Kathleen Oliver said the following:

Ever wonder what goes on inside a playwright’s mind as he crafts his work for the stage? Vancouver’s Andrew Templeton puts his process front and centre in What You Want: his four actors (Russell Bennett, Gillian Bennett, Sean Tyson, and Rachel Aberle) play two fictional couples, but interspersed with their story are snippets in which he uses them as mouthpieces for his own candid and often playful reflections on the writing. The fictional world is full of fresh, often risqué, comedy about dating and sex, but Templeton, who also directed, has equal fun with his metatheatricality, getting the actors entangled in arguments over what’s scripted and what’s not, and whether they are embodying the character or the playwright. The cast delivers with panache, and the women deserve special praise, Bennett for her winning groundedness and Aberle for her effervescent sass.

Writing in the Ubyssey Ginette Monaco said the following:

In writer/director Andrew Templeton’s Vancouver, people are fucking. They’re either fucking or they’re heartbroken, and sometimes the two overlap. The city depicted in the minimalist What You Want is represented by the lives of Dave, who has returned to Vancouver after a near death experience, and a trio of characters connected by their sexual histories. Given the subject matter, it’s an accomplishment that the play never feels crude.

Templeton is the ever-present puppet master, speaking to the audience through his actors about his own homecoming and struggles to finish the play. In places, it feels like What You Want is less the story of its characters, and more Templeton’s attempt to understand Vancouver’s changes in his absence. The resulting script is postmodern without being self-indulgent, and Templeton’s use of narration shows incredible restraint.

The play attempts to cover too much thematic territory in a short time. Ideas of home, truth and obligation are hinted at but never fully realized. However, the dialogue is genuinely funny and the actors give sincere and enthusiastic performances.

What You Want is a thoroughly engaging, modern exploration of desire, authenticity and the philosophical differences between ass men and tit men.

Writing in the Vancouver Courier, Jo Ledingham says:

If you like your theatre hip and cool, hot and sexy and very, very metatheatrical, What You Want might be exactly what you want. Writer Andrew Templeton (This Mortal Flesh, Biographies of the Dead and Dying) not only writes himself into his play, at one point all four characters claim to be Andrew Templeton with a shared memory of a moth flapping around in a Greyhound bus. Later they drop the Andrew Templeton act and become Laura (Gillian Bennett) and Dave (Russell Bennett) who meet via Craigslist and Rob (Sean Tyson) and Starling (Rachel Aberle), a UBC philosophy prof and a student/hooker who are having it off. I could do with less bungled anal sex and tits and ass conversations and more of the "where did Vancouver go" and "what has that done to us." Are these four urban characters screwed up, for example, because the city they live in has lost its soul? But the performances are terrific and it's a witty, with-it script.

What You Want one of the featured shows on Beyond Robson.

Biographies of the Dead & Dying (Toronto Production)

MachineFair was in Toronto with a new production of Andrew Templeton's acclaimed Biographies of the Dead & Dying as part of this year’s SummerWorks Festival. Directed by Amiel Gladstone (The Black Box; The Wedding Pool), the production featured Aviva Armour-Ostroff and Jeff Meadows. Design was by Kim Purtell and our Stage Manger is Christina Cicko.

The Torontoist featured a nifty cheat-sheet of their picks of the Festival, which included Biographies.

Ryan West writing for PLANK Magazine:

Vancouver’s MachineFair make their Toronto debut with Biographies of the Dead and Dying, a story that’s as much about writing and creativity as it is about death and mortality. Andrew Templeton’s script tiptoes coyly along the gothic genre line to explore the beauty and agony of the creative process, while Amiel Gladstone’s direction coaxes the perfect atmospheric tone from the would-be ghost story.

Aviva Armour-Ostroff plays Alice, a one-hit chick lit author who’s rented an allegedly haunted house on the coast of Vancouver Island in the hopes of finding inspiration for her next novel. Alice is tormented by her inability to invent or imagine, trapped in her need to write from experience. Her conflict is juggled back and forth between her insufferably talented ex-husband who can invent fictions on a pretentious whim, and her earthy, straight-talking neighbour and landlord who subtly facilitates the experiences Alice craves. Both male characters are performed with aplomb by Jeff Meadows, who embodies the antithetical roles so wholly that at times he seems actually split into two.

Alice’s frustrated search for the ghost of Old Tom, the house’s previous suicidal resident and supposed ghost, belies her greater problems with her craft in particular and her life in general. Templeton uses the schism between Alice and her ex-husband to explore metaliterate themes on writing, with the occasional tongue-in-cheek reference to playwrights as the absent third party. Although no literal specters do appear, the debate is open as to the metaphorical ghosts (her creativity? Sense of self-worth? Relationships?) that haunt Alice all the while.

Designer Kimberly Purtell’s props and lighting evokes the creaky, secluded ambiance of a haunted house, revolving around the foreboding old armchair in which Old Tom committed his final act. The setting itself stretches beyond the walls of the house, with bits of dialogue subtly crafting the isolated, atmospheric landscape of Vancouver Island’s remote coast.

Cleverly Crafted and seamlessly delivered, Biographies of the Dead and Dying is an emotionally charged exploration on the stories we tell, where they come from, and how they shape who we are. Not to be missed.

George Perry, writing for Mooney on Theatre has given the Toronto production a rave review:

Part of the vision of MachineFair is to create work that is intellectually stimulating, emotionally truthful and accessible. With their Toronto production of Biographies of the Dead & Dying, audiences can expect to witness a perfect shot, a bull’s-eye. The play is currently on stage in Toronto at Factory Theatre Mainspace as part of Summerworks.

Alice, a "one-hit chick lit" author, is brought to life magnificently by Aviva Armour-Ostroff. She is suffering from writer’s block and has rented a house on Vancouver Island from Jack.

Jeff Meadows is equally brilliant. He plays both Jack and Alice’s ex-husband, John. He is so good that I wasn’t sure that it was the same person playing two roles at first.

Playwright Andrew Templeton has done a masterful job of creating a role for an interesting, provocative woman. Together with Armour-Ostroff, we feel the self-doubt, the pride, the yearning and the sex appeal of Alice. It is all very genuine and emotionally truthful. A second bull’s-eye for MachineFair.

Read the entire review here.

Writing for his blog, The Visitorium, Kevin Reid says the following about Biographies:

It's a sharp funny script, the leads are fantastic, great chemistry, great direction, and the naughty bits are just enough to get the audience on the good side of feeling dirty. very recommended indeed.

Read the rest of Kevin's thoughts about the show and others he's taken at the Festival here.

In addition, NOW Magazine highlighted Amiel Gladstone as one of the artists to watch at this year's Festival and the Toronto Star asked Andrew Templeton, among other artists, to give his pick of the show he was looking forward to at this year's SummerWorks Festival.

To cure herself of writer’s block, an author rents a haunted house. Her goal: to write the biography of a ghost.

Instead of curing her of writer’s block, the author finds herself in an intense relationship with the missing and the dead. A haunting story with dark humour and twisted love, it is a spare exploration of the power we have to create and destroy.

MachineFair presents Biographies of the Dead and Dying, a psychological ghost story by Andrew Templeton, author of Portia, My Love (nominated for a Jessie for Outstanding Original Script 2006) and This Mortal Flesh (nominated for a Jessie for Outstanding Original Script 2009).

Unfolding in the manner of the best Hollywood ghost stories, including unexpected plot twists, Biographies of the Dead and Dying is directed by Amiel Gladstone.

Not all ghost stories are make believe.

Artists Involved

  • Aviva Armour-Ostroff* (Performer)
  • Christina Cicko (Stage Manager)
  • Amiel Gladstone* (Director)
  • Jeff Meadows* (Performer)
  • Kimberly Purtell (Lighting Designer)

Biographies of the Dead & Dying (Vancouver Production)

To cure herself of writer’s block, an author decides to rent a haunted house in a remote location. Her goal: to write the biography of a ghost.

Instead of curing her of writer’s block, the author finds herself in an intense relationship with the missing and the dead. A haunting story with dark humour and twisted love, it is a spare exploration of the power we have to create and destroy.

MachineFair and Craning Neck Theatre present Biographies of the Dead and Dying, a psychological ghost story by Andrew Templeton, author of Portia, My Love (nominated for a Jessie for Outstanding Original Script 2006) and This Mortal Flesh (nominated for a Jessie for Outstanding Original Script 2009).

Unfolding in the manner of the best Hollywood ghost stories, including unexpected plot twists, Biographies of the Dead and Dying is directed by Jeremy Waller (The Dark Between) and features Heather Lindsay and Simon Driver.

After its wildly successful run during the Vancouver Fringe, Biographies was included as part of the Jericho Arts Centre's "best of the Fringe" and was then invited back to the Havana Theatre for a special, encore presentation during December 2009.

Here is some of the critical and audience reaction received during the sell-out run:

Quite possibly one of the best plays I have ever seen, Biographies of The Dead and Dying is an excellent mix of suspense and thriller built up by exemplary performances and hair-raising music. Alice (Heather Lindsay) is a famous author who has left her husband and child behind to live in a haunted house out in the country in an attempt to write an autobiography about the man who committed suicide inside the house. Alice is a desperate, disillusioned alcoholic who finds herself in an intense relationship with the dead, riding the barrier between reality and fiction created in her mind.

The creepy, heart-pounding music (Emma Hendrix) aids in establishing the difference between what we perceive to be real, especially during the moments when Alice is speaking to her husband Jonathan (Simon Driver), who may or may not be a ghost. The uncertainty of this for both Alice and the audience is one of the driving elements of the plot. You are drawn into the story while being inherently uncomfortable about it.

The ending is filled with dread and tension and it doesn't let the viewer down. I certainly recommend this play to anyone who is into the psychological, but there is also humour, terror and wonder in Biographies of the Dead and Dying; it is one of those plays that wouldn't fade on second or even third impressions.

Alex Hutt, Press Plus One

Biographies is unique and brilliant, the acting powerful and outstanding, the staging and directing creatively executed and the lighting and sound dynamite.

Lindsay… is a force to be reckoned with. She pulled me into her neurotic, intense, over-wrought, paranoid and sexy character immediately. As an actress she exposes her heart, soul and private parts in Biographies.

Lianna Walden, PLANK Magazine

I have been praying to the Theatre Gods to send someone to write a play about ghosts that would leave my skin crawling and my heart pounding. Well, someone up there heard me, and sent Andrew Templeton along with MachineFair and Craning Neck Theatre baring their newest creation: Biographies of the Dead and Dying.

This show is violently haunting. Templeton’s writing is both lyric and quick-witted. The production shines fiercely under Jeremy Waller’s direction, and both of the actors execute his vision beautifully.

Heather Lindsay is simply mind-blowing as Alice. She hits the audience bang-on with subtle comedic timing, and the intensity that she brings to the character from the very start of the show makes it very hard to tear your eyes away from her.

Simon Driver’s physicality and subtlety in the characters of Jack and Jonathon are both eerie and graceful. His transformations between the two are terrific, and he has your skin crawling throughout the show. The two actors balance each other out beautifully.

Megan Marie Gates, PLANK Magazine

Heather Lindsay is excellent as an alcoholic writer who rents a home on Vancouver Island where, years ago, another writer killed himself. This is a smart, hour-long investigation into what it takes to be a writer: the sacrifices that the choice entails, the line between imagination and madness lies.

Marsha Lederman, Globe and Mail

A dark, dense and demented journey into the tormented inner world of a woman on the edge, Biographies of the Dead and Dying gets top marks for its brilliantly bleak atmosphere and inventive staging.

Glen Callender, UQ Events: reviews

[Biographies] was dark and morbidly funny and I spent half of it unaware that my jaw was agape. I haven't been in contact with very many pieces that embrace not only a writer's passions and fears, but also the manipulativeness, the hyper-logical mind.

The writing is lyrical and witty, the actors gave us absolutely everything they had and the music/crawling-dancing-whatever it was were so creepy. It was intense. The script, it knew me. Even if I haven't been pushed that far, I can see it, and I can see myself reacting the same way. It's a scary thing, seeing your vulnerabilities laid bare on a stage like that. In short, an experience you need if you are prone to staring out windows drinking writing talking to yourself.

Crashing the Net Blog

Biographies is a compelling piece of dark humour and a twisted journey into sex, death, life, and love.

Kendra Hart, Link Newspaper

I didn’t think Fringe shows were supposed to mess with your mind.

Twitter Comment

Two trailers were created for the Vancouver production by Sam Macmillan, with soundscape by Emma Hendrix, check them out.

This Mortal Flesh

an erotic tease by Andrew Templeton

This Mortal Flesh received its world premiere on March 13 2009 and ran until March 21st 2009, presented by the Firehall Arts Centre

If Holly touches Harry, he’ll blow up; which is unfortunate because they really, really want to touch.

Nominated for Outstanding Original Script at the 2009 Jessies.

About This Mortal Flesh

The Firehall Arts Centre presents a MachineFair production of This Mortal Flesh, an erotic tease by Andrew Templeton, the writer of Portia, My Love(nominated for a Jessie for Outstanding Original Script). This play about profound love, delayed gratification and exploding flamingos is directed by the Jessie-nominated David Bloom (The Monument, Und), known for the intelligence and sly humour he brings to his work. The cast includes the multi-talented performers Tanya Marquardt and Billy Marchenski as the frustrated lovers. Set design is by the Jessie-nominated Kate King, with costumes by Nina Prelog and lighting design by Daren Boquist.

"This Mortal Flesh is a potent mix of sex, comedy and ideas," explains Bloom. “It's a fantasy and a parable, but at its core it is a very human story about risk and trust. “It’s fascinating to work on an erotic two-person play where the characters can’t touch each other. Luckily with Tanya and Billy we have two sensual and fearless performers who are at home in their bodies and with each other. Sparks will definitely fly." This Mortal Flesh Directed by David Bloom Featuring Billy Marchenski & Tanya Marquardt Set Design by Kate King Costume Design Stage Management by Nina Prelog Lighting Design by Darren Boquist.

This production of This Mortal Flesh was made possible with the support of the BC Arts Council.