Reasons to Love Toronto Now: because this guy made CanStage great again
Matthew Jocelyn was born in Toronto’s east end, but everything about him screams European bon vivant: he has a closetful of Yves Montand turtlenecks, a whiff of a French accent from years spent living on the continent and a recklessly avant-garde sensibility. Which is what made it such a shock when he was hired as the artistic director of Canadian Stage in 2009. Under the directorship of Jocelyn’s predecessor, Martin Bragg, CanStage was in the crowd pleasing business, known for jazz-handed productions like Little Shop of Horrors and Shirley Valentine. Jocelyn, who spent a decade directing Duchampian theatre at Alsace’s Atelier Du Rhin, has swerved the troupe in a dazzlingly inventive direction. He commissions loony theatrical experiments, such as Helen Lawrence, a $1.4-million, CGI-inflected techno-noir; stages deep, chewy dramas, like Venus in Fur, a kinky comedy of manners; and scores stars like Molly Parker and Jason Priestley to headline his shows. Now theatregoers have figured out that populism and poignancy aren’t mutually exclusive: last season, the company’s ticket revenue climbed by 25 per cent. Each piece of Jocelyn’s programming is strange, striking and cerebral—and he believes Toronto audiences are up for the challenge. The best part is, he’s right.