When Marnie drags her much put-upon bestie Jane to a belly-dancing class, they are swept into a shimmying circle of sometimes endearing, sometimes outrageous women. Their friendship is tested through the demands of their spouses, babies, work lives and the arrival of some unexpected roommates.
They bare more than their midlife midriffs as they face themselves and their life choices, and struggle to remain friends through dares, stares, stage fright, cat fights and a secret that strains their loyalty. But through all the belly aches, dilemmas, betrayals and some very ‘special’ cakes, the two friends learn to face life’s challenges as they prepare for a special charity night at their local Turkish restaurant.
A fast-paced, quirky ensemble comedy with substance, A Belly Full may remind you of Calendar Girls with a hint of Strictly Ballroom. Theatre Aquarius opens their run of Mary Colin Chisholm and Marcia Kash’s A Belly Full on March 4th. In the director’s chair is none other than one of the co-playwrights, Marcia Kash, who explains the genesis of the play:
“It sprung from a conversation I had with my co-writer Mary Colin Chisholm back in 2004 about my brief foray into belly dancing. She kept coming back to it as a premise - and we developed it from there, first as a screenplay then later as a play.
Is it in some way autobiographical? No. Of course there are lots of personal threads and issues from which we concocted our story/characters, but no.”
Theatre Aquarius devotees will be glad to see many of their favourites in the ensemble. Director Kash couldn’t be happier about her cast and crew. “Gosh, I could gush endlessly about the cast and crew. I could not wish for a better group of people. We have laughed and cried a lot during the rehearsals as themes from the play have touched us all. We are blessed to have the indomitable Valerie Boyle in the cast who has provided us with many laughs, both intentional and not; Raymond Ablack who has been very successful in film and TV and was last seen on stage as a boy in the Toronto production of The Lion King; a phenomenally talented group of actors in all. I'd like to give a shout-out to the stage manager Catriona MacFarlane- and her fabulous team. This is Cat's swan song production as she moves on to a new career as a talent agent. Most importantly though, I want to give a big thank you to my partner-in-crime, Mary Colin Chisholm who is busy doing a show in Edmonton and won't get to see this production.”
And what of the dance component of the play? “Our choreographer, Robin Calvert, is truly gifted — particularly as a teacher to those (most of our cast) who are non-dancers. She has created something very special and the BEST moment was when, after much work, the women finally began to feel confident and proud of their dancing and began to smile — for real!”
“It's a big show so there is a lot to do in a short amount of time. Rehearsals have been full-on with everybody working flat out all the time. Being the director and co-playwright there is twice as much responsibility and I feel the pressure of that. It's rewarding when the cast love the piece, which they do, but the test is always — how will the audience react? It went very well in the UK last year so I'm hoping for the same here.”
But must one be a fancier of belly-dancing to enjoy what A Belly Full offers? Not necessarily, says Ms. Kash. “The play is very accessible, touches lightly on a lot of issues and is (hopefully) reasonably funny so I think it will have a wide appeal. The story takes a wry look at how women cope with the demands that life puts upon them and they put upon themselves. Ultimately these women must follow their guts and open their hearts to the ongoing dance of life.”
“In particular I think it will speak to women and I love that the opening is coinciding with International Women's Week. That being said there's a lot for men to like too!”
A Belly Full
by Mary Colin Chisholm and Marcia Kash
Directed by Marcia Kash
Choreography by Robin Calvert
March 4 – 21 at Theatre Aquarius