Saturday, September 6, 2008

Me & Josephine

Posted on Sat, Sep 6, 2008 at 5:41 PM

While wordy but worthy wordsmith Graham Pilsworth and I disagreed mightily on the merit of Daniel MacIvor’s “Wild Abandon”, we definitely agree on Leslie’s Carvery’s “Me and Josephine”. Carvery has that illusive “it”. She’s a star in need of a vehicle and while the story of entertainer extraordinaire Josephine Baker may well fit the bill, this multi-media/dance incarnation of said story is too slight to satisfy. But don’t let that stop you from catching one of the last two shows. Carvery’s sparkling personality and sensuous dance style make this a pleasant way to pass an hour.

Show Times: Saturday Sept. 6 at 8pm and Sunday Sept. 7 at 4:00 at DANSpace. $10.

Kate Watson

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Medea Redux

Posted on Sat, Sep 6, 2008 at 9:10 AM

"It's interesting how things work out", says a pretty-in- pink young woman seated at a plain basic table; a glass of water near her right hand ; a piece of paper and pen before her. No kidding. In a beautifully, emotionally nuanced performance, actor Mary Fay Coady brings to stunning life American fimmaker and playwright Neil LaBute's reworking of Euripedes' classic story of "jealousy and revenge of a woman betrayed by her husband" who dumps her and their two children to free himself up to marry a woman he figures ideal to uplift him romantically and in societal prestige. Wounded to her soul, the spurned woman exacts brutal revenge, poisoning her husband's intended and, for a capper, murdering the estranged couple's two children. LaBute, known for being "an unforgiving judge of the ugliest side of human nature" resets Medea in the Present. And uses the all-too-familiar story of an affair between a junior high teacher and a naive 13-year old girl to mirror Euripedes' seminal tragedy. What makes Medea Redux so compelling and riveting at this year's Fringe can be pinned on Mary Fay Coady. She skillfully depicts a 13-year old's dreamy expectation of a kiss - " a man's kiss that meant something". And the special excitement of being singled out by someone smart, atrractive and worldly-sophisticated. Older, worn-down, drained, recounting her feelings of betrayal, Coady's body language speaks as powerfully as the bitter words she chokes out. On the strength of Coady's confessional performance, Medea Redux deserves Fringe Hit status.

Showtime at the Bud Stop Theatre: Sat Sept 6 2:45 45 minutes $5.00

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Bone Jacked

Posted on Fri, Sep 5, 2008 at 9:39 PM

It’s rarely a good thing to leave a playing muttering “What the fuck?” and in the case of “Bone Jacked”, there was simply nothing else to say. Imagine Shakespeare memorized and spouted by a four-year-old. Nope. Scrap that. It would be obscene to hold Shakespeare and “Bone Jacked” in the same thought. Imagine the phone book recited by a four-year-old and you’ll get some idea of what it’s like to sit through a play where four Lycra-skirted babes in satin tops and sky-high heels spout utter nonsense while attempting not to smear their bright red lipstick. And honestly girls, I don’t hate you because you’re beautiful. I hate you because you made me waste so many precious moments of my life.

Show Time: Saturday, Sept 6 at 4pm at the Bus Stop. $7.

Kate Watson

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Southern Time

Posted on Thu, Sep 4, 2008 at 11:48 AM

It is to cry. Or have a muffin. Writer/actor/composer/musician Tim Bartsch shoots the pooch, I fear, with Southern Time, his "spectacular two-person original rock opera". Rock opera squats lumpenly as an odd musical theatre hybrid that, let's face it, "jumped the shark" at conception. Pete Townsend's Tommy came close to making rock opera work. And I suppose, John Cameron Mitchell's Hedwig and the Angry Inch skirts nearby to some success too. Here's where the crux of the form's problem lies. Opera is a sung play. Rock excels as two-minutes of kickass rhythm and simplistic sentiments. Period. As either, neither works. Rail thin, Tim Bartsch (who bears an unsettling resemblance to cadaverous bluesman, Johnny Winter) and pint-sized dynamo, the irrepressibly game Shazia Islam, batted a crowd of character parts back and forth in tight stage quarters; flapping and prancing about like competitve handball players. Many times the duo shared the same character simultaneously. Bothersome in that the effect, with blurred or stepped on line-readings, was like having a ventriloquist, lips moving, participating in a speaking death match with the dummy. Southern Time's storyline backtracks over the time a sexually naive young cello student contracts HIV, the "BIG SCARY VIRUS" from his much older (family trusted) life mentor and cello professor who, selfishly, fails to inform his student of his compromised health status. A transcendent skew, necessary to lift this oft-told tale into riveting drama, is sorely missing. Instead we, the audience, are "treated" to seemingly endless reams of one-tone exposition bereft of dramatic peaks and valleys. Much, from the recited sounds of it, I suspect, culled from NGO HIV studies. Too bad. There happened to be one outstanding scene that revealed what Southern Time might have been had Bartsch recognized, focused on and exploited its pregnant Play Potential. It's a domestic moment. Bartsch plays his cello, quite emotively, while around him swirls the charged feelings of his parents (Islam playing both). furious over their and their son's betrayal at the hands of the reckless cello professor. Bartsch, as the student, convincingly portrays an overwhelming sense of despair, puzzlement and shame. Moments like this, in the hands of a playwright such as Tony Kushner, elevate overly familiar material into something profound and soul touching as in Kushner's Angels in America. As for Southern Time's musical numbers, they suffered from being too much alike; soapy power ballads clogged with clunky, rolled chords alternating ad nauseum between their major and minor settings. A limited musical palette can carry the day or the show when applied with wit and skill. Refer to Tom Waits' CD collection of songs he composed for the provovative Robert Wilson directed play, The Black Rider. And have a muffin.

Showtimes at the Khyber 2: Thurs Sept 4 at 9:45; Fri Sept 5 at 8:30; Sat Sept 6 at 8:45 and Sun Sept 7 at 2:00 Mature Audiences Only 90 minutes $10:00

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Jesus And Buddha At Play

Posted on Wed, Sep 3, 2008 at 9:56 AM

Okay, Fringers. Top Ten Best Comedy Duos. 1. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy 2. Bud Abbott and Lou Costello 3. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis 4. Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders 5. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore 6. Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster 7. Mike Nichols and Elaine May 8. Tom and Dick Smothers 9. George W Bush and Dick Cheney (black comedy of errors in the extreme) 10. Jesus and Buddha . Jesus and Buddha? Quoi? I hear you gasp. Want proof? For a surprisingly enjoyable two-man deity romp, take yourself to the Khyber 2 for Jesus and Buddha at play. For comedy to work well, it's patently necessary to have talented entertainers comfortable with each other to ensure that they possess that all-essential bang on timing for their material to "kill". And. of course, (d'oh) truly sharply honed and crafted accessible material for them to work. The tag, at play, exactly sums up Jesus and Buddha. Martin Sasinek, whippet-thin, long-haired, bearded, portrays Jesus as a somewhat performance anxiety-riven "dude" (an echo of Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski), unsure of what "Daddy" expects of him and worse, if he can even so much as modestly deliver on "Daddy's" Great Expectations. He frets. He kvells. He twitches. He sweats. The dude needs help. This comes, fortunately for Jesus, in the substantially round form of Todd Young's Buddha, depicted as a well-meaning, erudite but rather fusty Oxford don. In this rewarding amusement (blasphemous to only extremely hidebound boilerplate religionists) Jesus and Buddha share a close friendship which becomes all the more evident as we delight in their comparative, mutually respectful philosophical back and forths as they create the world, have coffee, go fishing, do Hamlet, play basketball, go to "war", get enlightened (beneath the Bo-tree - a potted ficus standing in for the tree of wisdom - score one for the Buddhists) and most pointedly, live in the here and now. Out of this scene, we're presented with yet another Best Comedy Duo. This time it's Tommy Chong (from Best Comedy Duos number 11. Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong) paired with John Lennon. Believe me when I say - this makes sense. Jesus and Buddha at play? Just the ticket for what this chippy, contentious world really really needs: a smart, funny, good-natured enlightening up.

Showtimes at the Khyber 2: Wed Sept 3 at 9:15, Sat Sept 6 at 6:00; Sun Sept 7 at 7:00 60 minutes $10.00

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Wild Abandon

Posted on Tue, Sep 2, 2008 at 9:58 AM

Years ago, sultry-voiced pop singer Peggy Lee sang a very cynical and dark-hued "art" song head-snappingly written by Leiber and Stoller - a songsmith duo better known for a slew of classic rock 'n' roll pulse-lifters. The song in question, entitled: Is That All There Is, chimed chorus lyrics which immediately came to mind after seeing Daniel MacIvor's Wild Abandon.

"Is that all there is? Is that all there is? If that's all there is Well let's keep on dancin' Break out the booze an' Have a ball If that's all there is."

Boyish actor Kyle Gillis masterfully stands in for "Stevie", a pudgy, fumble-brained man-child perhaps in his early twenties whose maturing process hit an insurmountable speed bump round about 17 years of age. In a series of snappy, sometimes comical confessional or observational outbursts (separated by blackouts), "Stevie" weighs in on the likes of social dancing, life options including suicide - given the visual of "Stevie" atop a chair inserting his head through a hangman's noose, being Roman Catholic ("whether you like it or not"), self-worth ("I am so full of beauty I could "), the fun side of abusing the family pet, defecation ("Shit in your ears, in your toilet; makes us all humble; keeps us all the same; that's fuckin' encouraging."), fellatio and love and yadda, yadda, yadda. MacIvor, a brilliant wordsmith and clever clever playwright, easily nails the hurried language spew and A.D.D. abrupt subject shifts common to stolidly ordinary, banal twenty-something. feckless male naifs. I took Wild Abandon to be a MacIvor character sketch poised for one of his usual clever clever twists to give "Stevie" something more profound, insightful or memorable to excite us in his monolgue. During the play's running, I felt I was playing the role of a social worker at work to listen to the same-old, same-old troubled kids outpourings heard on a daily basis, day in; day out. "Is that all there is? Is that all there is? If that's all there is, well, let's keep dancin'. Let's break out the booze an' have a ball; if that's all there is."

Showtimes at the Khyber 2: Thurs Sept 4 at 8:15; Fri Sept 5 at 10:30; Sat Sept 6 at 4:30. Sun Sept 7 at 5:3045 minutes $7.00 PG

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Monday, September 1, 2008

Dog Town

Posted on Mon, Sep 1, 2008 at 9:27 PM

Bud Hunter is an affable guy who loves dogs and has filled his life with them. “Dog Town” is a monologue filled with humorous stories and colour pictures of the many mutts that have wormed their way into his heart. There’s a pie-loving three-legged rottweiler, an angry spitz/beagle cross with the habits of a cobra, a bottomless pit of a hound dog, a hyper-destructive golden lab…and the list goes on. The humour is not shake-your-sides funny, but there are enough guffaws along the way to make this an entertaining 45 minutes. Besides, it feels good to know your fringe dollars are going to support so many potentially unwanted canine misfits.

Show Times: Tuesday Sept. 2 at 6:30, Thursday September 4 at 8:30, Friday Sept. 5 at 6:30, Saturday Sept 6 at 7:15 and Sunday Sept. 7 at 8:15. $4.

Kate Watson

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Life is a Cabaret

Posted on Mon, Sep 1, 2008 at 8:46 PM

I’m the first to admit that I’m a big fan of Dartmouth’s Saints Alive! Theatre Company. There’s just something about talented young people singing and dancing their hearts out that I think is inspiring. That being said, I can’t rave about their latest production “Life is a Cabaret.” It could be that I enjoyed last year’s fringe production “Beautiful City” so much that it proved a hard act to follow. Or maybe I caught them on an off day, when some of the voices weren’t at their best. Or maybe the pacing of the show is too draggy for my tastes—I certainly perked up when there were lively and comedic pieces like the hilarious “(Not) Getting Married” or “I remember Love” with its inspired casting of two of the youngest members of the company as two old fogies. But even when not at the very top of their game, this talented troupe is worth a look.

Show Times: Friday Sept. 5 at 6:30 and Saturday Sept. 6 at 8:30 at Neptune Theatre Studio. $8.

Kate Watson

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Joe: The Perfect Man

Posted on Mon, Sep 1, 2008 at 12:52 PM

For Joe Mal (performed by gifted clown Rachelle Elie) an open casting call for roles in a production of Shakespeare's psychodrama-tragedy Macbeth is a chance of his lifetime. Now smudging 60, Joe has been a longtime student of the play he says. And as such, (deep cautionary intake of breath here), he has some ideas of how Macbeth could be improved. We all well know Macbeth concludes with the stage littered with corpses. Shakespeare's love of gore and slaughter in his tragedies disturbs Joe - already a deeply disturbed man in his own right. As portrayed, Joe is but one step removed from those sad lost street souls with aluminum foil wrapped about their heads to stifle in-coming directives from the Great and Terrible Zog on Planet Zircon. "Nobody wants to leave on a downer," Joe says to a cranky, tired, eager-to-go-home casting director. "That's why I change the end of the play. Bring heart back into the story. I do not think musical theatre when I think of Macbeth. I think a ballet rock opera starring Joe Mal" Who is this guy decked out in a dueling plaid combo of slacks and sports jacket whose lapels sag from a chicken pox array of quip buttons, country music rhinestone-barnacled tie, a shrubbery of gray hair atop a Reese Witherspoon face, aviator glasses? And, balloon animal physique? Why Joe, the perfect man to play each and every role in Macbeth. And, he means to prove it. With second banana assistance from cannily chosen volunteers drawn from the assembled throng, Joe dementedly convulsed audience members last night with perhaps the most out-of-left-field notions, quips and loose-limbed antics likely to be heard and seen at this year's Fringe Festival. A delightful completely spontaneous moment to relate that occurred close to the end of the madcap mayhem One second banana, curled up on stage in a fetal position, wearing a pair of sequin encrusted rabbit ears on his noggin (the riotous finale involves sleeping bunnies - ooh yessss) fished a cell phone from his pants pocket and lobbed it to an audience member seated in the front row. "Please," he giggled, "somebody take my picture. I may never do something like this again in my life." The audience dissolved. Joe: The Perfect Man is a show of terrific whack-a-mole buffoonery; " a tale told by an idiot" signifying explosive laughter.

Showtimes Studio Theatre in Neptune : Mon Sept 1 6:45; Fri Sept 5 10:00; Sat Sept 6 3:45; Sun Sept 7 5:30 60 minutes $10.00

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

2 B (Or Not 2 B)

Posted on Sun, Aug 31, 2008 at 4:13 PM

2 B (Or Not 2 B) is a bewitching, very funny two-hander about the strange seduction of Franny - a once promising visual artist specializing in the use of bodily fluids on canvas; now, despairingly, reduced to an increasingly empty existence as an inconsequential dead end receptionist: a hapless loser in love and life. When the play opens, we see this desperate woman applying hair removal wax to her bared left leg as she speaks beseechingly to her ex-boyfriend over the phone. She implores him, placing several needy calls to him between eye-popping, howl-inducing, painful paper strip removals of body wax and leg hair, to dump the new squeeze (one of her friends) and return again to what was once good between them. To her dismay, he refuses to be enticed. Even after she, in a Hail Mary move, colours her friend, his new lover, as someone more STD toxic than infamously deadly Typhoid Mary. Then, just when life cannot possibly get much darker for her, she's suddenly startled by The Intruder - a very unusual interloper to be sure. And a, grip something, suitor to boot.This would-be Lothario is a manifestation worthy of Franz Kafka - if the grimly absurdist master had ever possessed even so much as a smidge of a Seinfeldian sense of humour. The Intruder, in honeyed tones, pitches woo to Franny that unsettles her to say the least. However, to her surprise (and ours), her initial reservations to his blandishments wobble and, alarums, begin to diminish. Will, in the end, The Intruder have his way with her? Be advised. It could go either way. Vanessa Walton-Bone (who wowed audiences lucky to have caught her in last year's Fringe's excellent presentation of Harold Pinter's The Lover) as Franny gives a masterful, hilarious, in-character comic performance that's not to be missed. In the role of The "sweet" Intruder, Reno Anastasia delivers a sly, delicious, wonderfully nuanced comic turn that, to perfection, counterbalances Franny's barely contained confusion, wonderment and anxiety. This very professional production of 2B (Or Not 2 B) is truly and comically bedazzling.

Showtimes: in Neptune Theatre's Imperial Room: Mon Sept 1 3:15 and 8:15; Fri Sept 5 7:00; Sat Sept 6 3:45 and 9:00; Sun Sept 7 8:00 $6:00

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My First Moustache

Posted on Sun, Aug 31, 2008 at 10:02 AM

I can’t imagine how it feels to have to perform comedy in front of an almost empty house. After all, laughter feeds and fuels comics. But Toronto’s Neil Cameron pulled off a high-energy set with less than a dozen people in attendance, and I can only imagine he’ll be even better in front of a crowd. His persona is that of an awkward but personable 31-year-old who’s decided to assert his manhood by growing a moustache. His delivery is great, and there are lots of laughs in the material. In fact, I’d like to nominate this sentence as one of the funniest in this year’s Fringe Festival: “Ann Murray’s hair makes my throat itch.” Go ahead. Buy a ticket and see if it strikes you the same way.

Show Times: Sunday Aug. 31 at2:30 and Monday September 1 at 1:30 at the Bust Stop theatre. $8.

Kate Watson

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Swelle

Posted on Sun, Aug 31, 2008 at 9:37 AM

In a festival crowded with one-man shows, “Swelle” is destined to stand out because of a tour de force performance by Sarah English. The play is actually four pieces created by four different female writers. The first is told by a nerdy teenage girl as she broadcasts her video log—a conceit I found far more effective than the standard phone conversation one-man show. It’s cute and clever, although the quirky mannerisms and dorky snorts get annoying after a while. The second piece—a kind of confession by a stylish urban woman about her childhood sexual experiences-- was less successful. It seemed written to shock rather than enlighten and might be better staged on a psychiatrist’s couch. In the third piece, a driven young professional gets an accidental Brazilian while wheeling and dealing on her blackberry. It was mildly amusing, but again, seemed an unlikely set-up. In the final and most memorable piece, a young widow falls to pieces as she describes her attempts to go on living. It was a wonderful combination of poetic writing and heart-felt delivery that made me cry.

Show Times: Sunday Aug. 31 at 5:00, Monday Sept. 1 at 9:30, Friday Sept. 5 at 9:45 at Bus Stop Theatre. $6.

Kate Watson

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Half Past Three

Posted on Sat, Aug 30, 2008 at 5:46 PM

Film noir fans, ya've heard of The Big Sleep, The Big Heat, Farewell My Lovely and Kiss Me Deadly. You've thrilled to the seedy shadowy cinematic depictions of "the last shred of humanity, the last ray of light, the last drag of a cigarette, the last wisecrack, the last breath". (Who knew these could be so lasting?) Now thrill to Half Past Three, a bright noir romp written and deliciously acted by the wickedly funny duo of Sher Clain and Ann Doyle. The setting? A nightclub. Backstage dressing room of a slinky and much deceased lounge thrush. What's left of her is a taped outline tracing where her body sprawled when first found. Investigating her untimely demise are Agent AA (diminutive Sher Clain) - a detective about whom investigation manuals are based and written. And Agent DD (tall Ann Doyle) who is honoured tickle-pink beyond his wildest comprehension to be working his first case in tandem with his fabled longtime sleuthing hero. Doyle, a grimacing toothy grin pasted throughout on her puss, regularly addresses the audience with side-splitting story exposition couched in familiar noir film catch-phrases and argot.To us, something about the investigation doesn't appear quite kosher. Why is legendary Agent AA so shifty and evasive as he relentlessly and frantically rumages through the late songbird's particulars and effects - as if hunting for something specific - perhaps not actually relevant to solving the case. Ka-ching! The Big Reveal at the brisk play's conclusion explains all. But before that summing up, Clain and Doyle pull an all-stops-out Mel Brooksian Cole Porter musical moment, complete with harmony singing and Broadway steps dancing, that doubled up the audience, already sore-ribbed from laughter. My advice, Fringe-goers? Direct yer gams to the Khyber 2 and enjoy a riotous 40 minutes with this pair of hardly hard-boiled detectives as they try to figure out just what in lace pants happened at Half Past Three.

Showtimes: Khyber 2 Sat Aug 30 at 8:45; Mon Sept 1 at 3:30 ; Thurs Sept 4 at 6:00 and Sat Sept at 3:15 and Sun Sept 7 at 8:30 $6:00

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Crown Hill Cemetery

Posted on Sat, Aug 30, 2008 at 10:19 AM

I can relate to “Crown Hill Cemetery”, a monologue by New York City’s Lisa Haas. I too come from a family where death is a hot topic. In, fact the first thing out of my father’s mouth on his recent visit from Toronto was “I’m not having a funeral. You kids just get together and sprinkle my ashes and then go out to lunch—I’m paying.” Still, as much as I liked her funny observations on death and her easy-going manner, the piece seemed somehow over-rehearsed. It felt like a stand-up comedy routine, although the aim seemed to be more like story telling. But perhaps I’m quibbling. There were plenty of laughs as well as complimentary corn chips and carrots. How can you not like a show with nibblies?

Show Times: Saturday Aug. 30 at 7:30, Sunday Aug. 31 at 3:15 and 9:00, Monday Sept. 1 at 5:00, Tuesday Sept. 2 at 10:15, Wednesday Sept. 3 at 8:15, Friday Sept. 5 at 6:00 and Saturday Sept. 6 at 7:30 at Khyber 2. $10.

Kate Watson

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Cross-Sections

Posted on Sat, Aug 30, 2008 at 9:48 AM

If you are checking out Fringe listings for something really cool to see this weekend, I recommend catching Cross-Sections playing at DANspace. This is a delight-filled program of films-on-dance about dance-on-film shorts, live dance pieces and one riveting outing of live flesh and blood dancer partnered and partnering two like-costumed dancers on screen. Dance of late has been elevated in mainstream consciousness and interest in no small measure by the surging popularity of TV programs such as So You Think You Can Dance. (I know I can't dance which is why it's such a thrill to see live, dancers who really can.) Last night, engaging New Brunswick filmmaker John Marshall's presentations were projected upon a black backdrop. Less than perfect for showing films. Surely black would "swallow" the projected imagery. So you would think. But, paradoxically, that didn't happen. The black screen somehow enhanced the alluring, sometimes haunting, sometimes madcap-funny, recorded dance numbers. The emotive, sensual and slyly erotic live dancing by Sarah Johnson (who doubled as choreographer) and Julie Mytka avoided check your brain at the door, pimp my ride showboating dance for more measured, gracefully honeyed, beautifully expressive narratives focussed on the timeless theme of love and loss. Either solo or paired, Johnson and Mytka offered fresh-faced, emotionally honest, often shiver-down-the-spine dance performances underpinned and buoyed by their impressive skill. Cross-Sections can be summed up as a wonderful rewarding ideosyncratic take on 'living in the now (live dance)' and 'living in the then that was now (film dance)'. A must see.

Performances: DANspace Sat Aug 30 6:00 and 9:30, Sun Aug 31 6:00 All ages 45 minutes $8.00

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