By Erin Kobayashi
Music and theatre are two of Brandon McGibbon’s passions. So when the 24-year-old Ryerson theatre graduate of the class of 1998 was offered the role of The Prodigy in the Necessary Angel production Glenn, about the musical genius Glenn Gould, he was ecstatic.
“Even though [the play] is about Glenn Gould, a classical pianist, the ideas were much bigger than the piano and classical music,” says McGibbon. “It deals with art itself and can relate to all kinds of music really.”
The role of The Prodigy demands McGibbon capture the unusual, eccentric behaviour of Glenn Gould both as an adolescent and as a young man.
All four actors who play Gould at critical times in his life, The Prodigy, The Performer, The Perfectionist and The Puritan never leave the stage.
Without any backstage breaks between dialogue, McGibbon is both mentally and physically exhausted after the show.
“You never get to leave the stage for two-and-a-half hours not to mention that you are wearing four layers of wool. I think I lose ten pounds of weight a night from sweating.”
The energy that McGibbon throws into his performance as the young Glenn Gould is spectacular. He has performed in the Montreal showings of Glenn in September and October. It seems as though The Prodigy truly discovers all of his ideas as the audience watches. The cast is tight and in sync with one another, giving the dialogue a seamless feel. McGibbon and R.H. Thomson (The Puritan) in particular gave the impression that they were actually thinking about, not just reciting, the emotionally intense dialogue.
The audience receives a theatrical and musical treat as excerpts of Bach’s Goldberg Variations — twice recorded by Gould — is played throughout the production. But if you just want to sit back and relax, this is not the play for you. Audiences must be willing to give their attention and focus to each of the four Goulds onstage. Although it may be tempting to stare at the red props on the visually bleak set, you will miss out on key stories and ideas that make the play richer.
“It is a really intelligent play which tries to take an in-depth look at his ideas,” says McGibbon. “It doesn’t preach his ideas, it just expresses them and constantly questions them.”
McGibbon graduated two years ago, but even before he left he saw the change from a three-year diploma schedule to a four-year degree program as detrimental to students.
“Four years in theatre school is a long time,” he says. “You are always learning in theatre but staying in one place for that long, I don’t know if I could take it.”
McGibbon says students struggle in their final year between staying in school and the desire to break into the business, but he encourages them to concentrate on school and to absorb as much as they can from their teachers.
“Theatre school is merely an environment where they offer you ideas and experiences to develop yourself,” says McGibbon. “Take it like that. Don’t take theatre school as the be all, end all.”