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Vancouver ensemble offers summer fare 0

By Laura Murray

The Ensemble Theatre Company presents several offerings from now until Aug. 16, including The Duchess of Malfi, featuring Alison Raine as The Duchess, Adam Bergquist as Antonio, and Paul Herbert (rear) as Ferdinand.
Thorsten Photography

The Ensemble Theatre Company presents several offerings from now until Aug. 16, including The Duchess of Malfi, featuring Alison Raine as The Duchess, Adam Bergquist as Antonio, and Paul Herbert (rear) as Ferdinand. Thorsten Photography

When Tariq Leslie, artistic director of Ensemble Theatre Company, looks back on the triumph of the company’s inaugural 2013 season, he speaks in a disarmingly funny manner.

“You could have knocked me over with a feather — in the happiest way possible,” he said.

I caught Leslie, by phone, prior to the start of a technical rehearsal for this year’s emotionally raw, intensely thrilling repertory offerings, which include The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Duchess of Malfi, and The Normal Heart, opening Friday and running through Aug. 16 at the Jericho Arts Centre in Vancouver.

“We’re feeling good. Our advance sales are looking good for a company in its second year,” he said. “We feel like we can print that section in the program that lists our shows next summer.”

Growing up in Victoria, B.C., Leslie had always been an artsy kid, performing for friends and family behind the scenes, but never quite ready to step into the spotlight. In his final year of high school, he was cast in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, as Malvolio, walking away with the school’s acting award. A graduate of the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, he was immersed in the classics and given a comprehensive approach to the power of performance.

“LAMDA was like no other experience. It really made me – it just opened a whole other world to me,” he said. “We were steeped in the work of Chekov, the Jacobean’s and the Greeks.”

With an active career on stage, and in film and TV, Leslie founded ETC with a vision inspired by his time at LAMDA, where he thrived in an ensemble setting amongst a core group of actors.

“To a certain extent, I got the band together,” he said. “I wanted to create – as cheesy as it sounds, an ‘all for one and one for all’ working environment for actors, designers and directors.”

Directing two works this year (John Webster’s 1613 revenge tragedy The Duchess of Malfi and Larry Kramer’s 1985 landmark play The Normal Heart – a profound piece about the early days of the AIDS crisis), he is hopeful that audiences will be drawn to the diversity of the programming.

“I hope audiences respond to our approach – to honour what we suspect an author’s intentions were. I have always believed that an audience needs to be surprised by what’s on offer,” he said.

Audiences will no doubt be surprised and stirred by the haunting tragicomedy The Cripple of Inishmaan, launching ETC’s second season tonight. Written by Martin McDonagh and directed by Matthew Bissett, whose direction of The Farnsworth Invention was the hit of last year’s festival, the comic masterpiece is a voyage of self-discovery set off the coast of Ireland in 1934.

Tickets and more details can be found at ensembletheatrecompany.ca

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