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Alex Wickham in Deluge. Photo: Obscura Creative.

Theatre Review: Deluge at Undercurrents—until Mar. 14

By Barbara Popel on March 12, 2021

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The world premiere of Deluge is quite impressive. It’s described as “a rock concert on rising seas” and a “visual album”, but I’d describe it as a polished music video with an ecological message.

Deluge follows 2 people—Callie (the multi-talented Kate Smith) and Lewis (the fusion artist KAR33M, also known as Abdul Muse). They are climate change refugees whose town has disappeared under rising waters caused by rapid climate change.

Smith has a strong clear singing voice. KAR33M uses the spoken word, often forcefully and effectively, to communicate. Describing Deluge as a rock concert is a bit misleading; there’s some rock, but the musical styles range from bluesy torch singing to hip hop to a rather bouncy sea shanty. There’s even a smattering of flamenco and fado.

Kate smith in Deluge. Photo: Obscura Creative.

A polished music video with an ecological message.

One of the things which struck me was how professional the production is. No surprise, really, since Skeleton Key Theatre has assembled a top notch group of artists for Deluge. Its co-creators are Smith and Scottie Irving. You may recognize Irving’s name from Ottawa’s wonderfully eclectic pop band The PepTides, or from his musical collaborations with various theatre companies. Irving (musical direction and keyboards) is joined by two other members of The PepTides, Juan Gomez Miguel Montant (guitar, bass) and Alex Wickham (drums), and by Kathryn Patricia (viola). They’re an excellent musical ensemble. The troupe is rounded out by the award-winning Vanessa Imeson (costume design) and Derek Price (film direction). Imeson’s costumes are interesting without being distracting. I assume Price is also responsible for the lighting and set design, both of which are very evocative (though I have to say that the inclusion of a disco ball during the final song made me giggle).

Skeleton Key has made a virtue of the necessity of pandemic physical distancing. Smith and KAR33M never appear together in the same shot, nor do the musicians. But we’re hardly aware of this and even if we are, isolation is a theme of Deluge.

KAR33M in Deluge. Photo: Obscura Creative.

This polished production, particularly because of the quality of its music, deserves an audience.

The first two songs introduce us to Callie and Lewis. They are filled with yearning to escape, filled with anger and regret. Then, with the song “State of Emergency/And the Rain”, terrifying flooding overwhelms everything. This is a song that had a lot of impact on me—so much dread and tension! The visuals accompanying this song are particularly effective, especially when it appears that each of the performers is falling backward into water, about to drown. It is followed by a terrified call for help in the song “Anybody Out There?”. Chilling! There’s a sudden switch to a cheerful ditty full of sunshine, a sparkling blue sea and a beautiful sailboat. Really evocative—a welcome escape from the doom and gloom. The song ends with a fervent “Amen”, and we’re back to despair, with the two characters “out here alone” and Callie concerned about her soon-to-be-born baby. This morphs into Callie’s bitter song, “Revenge”. Lewis launches into “Flame Within”, asking, “When the deluge comes, will we sink or swim?”. He exhorts, “Rise up and stand up for what you believe!”. Deluge ends with the hopeful “Rising Tide”, in which they assert, “We will rise like the tide… we are the rising tide.”

This polished production, particularly because of the quality of its music, deserves an audience.


Deluge is playing as part of the online undercurrents 2021 festival. It is the only prerecorded play in the festival. The remaining performances are at 8:30pm on Saturday March 13 and 3pm on Sunday March 14. The play is 35 minutes long, not 60 minutes as advertised. Information and tickets are available online at undercurrentsfestival.ca.

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