GRIFFIN & SABINE
by Nick Bantock
Arts Club Theatre Company
Granville Island Stage
October 5-November 4
604.280.3311 or 604.687.1644
In the program for Griffin & Sabine, Arts Club dramaturg
Rachel Ditor describes the challenges she and Bowen Island author
Nick Bantock faced in adapting his six novels for the stage. The
lushly illustrated books, made up of long-distance correspondences
among four characters, share their story with the reader through
exotically hand-painted postcards printed on the page, and handwritten
letters that you remove from their customized envelopes and unfold
to read. The intertwined love stories of Griffin and Sabine, Isabella
and Matthew are almost secondary to the tactile intimacy of handling
the books, stroking their glossy pages, wondering over the intricate,
hauntingly surreal pictures.
Bantock, Ditor and director James Fagan Tait meet the challenges
of translating one medium to another with a good deal of success.
The characters move formally around Bryan Pollock’s minimalist
set, speaking their letters aloud, avoiding physical contact. The
books’ beautiful illustrations are recreated in Tim Matheson’s
video projections. Marsha Sibthorpe’s moody lighting and the
evocative onstage music of Joelysa Pankanea (vibraphone and hand
drums) and Mark Haney (double bass) conjure a mystical atmosphere
But the symphonic visual/sonic effects and strong acting struggle
against a repetitious structure (how many times can we hear people
say they love each other?), characters who feel increasingly bloodless,
and a plot that drifts into tedious mystical and alchemical obscurity.
Griffin and Sabine’s initial relationship is fascinating.
He (Colin Legge) is a London-based illustrator of arty postcards.
She (Lois Anderson) contacts him from her home on a South Pacific
island, knowing things about him she can’t possibly know.
As they exchange cards and letters, their interest in one another
becomes obsession, then love. When he tries to go to her island,
she comes to London. He wonders if she’s just a figment of
The plot thickens when sinister journalist Frolatti (Marco Soriano)
begins harassing Sabine and another couple: Matthew (Andrew McNee),
an archeologist on a dig in Alexandria, and his Parisian girlfriend
Isabella (Megan Leitch).
All five become connected as Matthew unearths a fabulous artifact
that seems to hold the secret to certain ancient alchemical mysteries
accessed by Isabella through her dreams, possessed somehow by Sabine
through her psychic sensitivities, and sought by “dark angel”
Frolatti. Griffin has something to do with it too, as well as a
mysterious cat, a lion and a Samurai warrior.
All the actors are fine, especially Legge. But their uniformly
flat, unemotional delivery, stylized movement, absence of physical
contact, and formal language that sometimes sounds translated combine
to make the characters feel more like works of art than real people.
This isn’t realism so don’t expect it. But is the beauty