Nicholas Campbell (centre) and Marc Bendavid, who play various characters in the show, including a witness to the Martian invasion and a reporter who dies in the attack
The ultra-eclectic chamber orchestra known as The Art of Time Ensemble is always looking for ways to break through the stuffiness and predictability of classical music. To accomplish this, it has done things like arrange and perform an orchestral version of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album and collaborate onstage with Michael Ondaatje, R. H. Thomson, dancer Peggy Baker and singer Steven Page (with whom they also recorded an album of songs by Leonard Cohen, Radiohead, Rufus Wainwright and others). But the Ensemble’s obsessively faithful recreation of The War of the Worlds, Orson Welles’ notoriously fake 1938 radio broadcast about Martians invading rural New Jersey, is its most elaborate project yet. It first performed the show last year to rave reviews, and brings it back this month for a limited run. The group, which adds players as needed, has incorporated theatrical elements in its productions before, but for The War of the Worlds, it goes all out. They transform the stage into a 1930s radio studio, complete with old-timey microphones and a foley artist providing live sound effects. Three actors in period costumes perform the roles of Welles and his co-conspirators. (Nicholas Campbell and Marc Bendavid were in the 2011 production, while comedian Sean Cullen takes over the Welles role from Don McKellar.) The Ensemble itself acts as the radio orchestra and opens the show with music by the film composer Bernard Herrmann, a favourite of Welles. We met Andrew Burashko, the Ensemble’s founder, in a back room of St. Luke’s United Church, and watched him work with the actors who must bring Welles’ radio-play-within-a-play to life.
Theatre The War of the Worlds
Oct. 30 to Nov. 4