The longest-running solo performance festival in North America kicks off in Victoria this week as Intrepid Theatre hosts its 15th season of comedy, drama, dance, music and spoken word.
This year’s lineup includes the work-in-progress The God That Comes by raucous rocker Hawksley Workman (with 2B Theatre Company, Halifax), recent CBC Canada Reads winner, actress and Chilean revolutionary Carmen Aguirre’s Blue Box (Nightswimming Productions, Toronto), 2011 Pick-of-the-Fringe comedy performer The Birdmann (Surfers Paradise, Australia), the fifth anniversary performance of Juno Productions’ (Vancouver) Jake’s Gift, two-time Dora Award-nominated bicycle-powered dance-theatre mash-up The Atomic Weight of Happiness (Stand Up Dance, Toronto), the teachers’ drama Those Who Can’t Do… (Caterwaul Theatre, Toronto) and a mystical movement-based piece Four Quartets with dance set to the poetry of T.S. Eliot (Trial & Eros, Montreal), all alongside a slew of local favourites including improv master Dave Morris (Photo Booth), droll deity Mike Delamont (God is a Scottish Drag Queen), Fringe favourite Andrew Bailey (The Adversary), medieval spoken word by Victoria’s Srumpy Productions, performed by Julian Cervello (Canterbury Cocktails).
This year, Intrepid — having received a grant to help celebrate Victoria’s 150th — has created something special for Uno Fest with Press>Play, a series of four site-specific audio monologues created for the solo listener. Each monologue will be available as a free download via cell phone, iPod or mp3 player (hard copy maps, details and player rentals are also available at 1609 Blanshard).
Press>Play will guide the listener through the streets, parks and buildings of our fair city and invite them to eavesdrop on its innermost thoughts. Created by local playwrights and musicians, Press>Play will help you explore the hidden treasures, overlooked beauties and mysteries of Victoria.
The festival also offers Uno Works, three solo works in development by Victoria-based artists, including spoken wordsmith Missie Peters (Where is my Flying Car?), singer-actress Katrina Kadoski in Cougar Annie, and dancer and performance artist Constance Cooke in I be Caribou.
Monobrow, the annual three-minute mini-monologue slam, is back with the fifth and sixth instalments in support of Megan Newton (who originally created Monobrow) and her fight with cancer (May 26 and June 2, 10 p.m. 1609 Blanshard).
Also on the agenda are three artist workshops. The first, Solo Show Intensive, is back by popular demand for a full day-long exploration with actor and playwright Nicolle Nattrass (June 3, $90. Pre-registration required, 250-590-6291).
Meagan O’Shea from Toronto’s Stand Up Dance is offering a Physical Theatre Workshop (June 2, $50. Pre-registration required, 250-590-6291), and Victoria’s improv impresario Dave Morris will be teaching the intricacies of Improvised Storytelling (June 2, $50. Pre-registration required, 250-590-6291). For more information, full lineup and schedule, visit intrepidtheatre.com/uno-fest-2012. M
Getting closer to God through wine
Rocker Hawksley Workman gets theatrical in new show The God That Comes
Experience epiphany and get closer to God in The God That Comes, a work-in-progress collaboration between Canadian rocker Hawksley Workman and Halifax’s 2B Theatre artistic co-director Christian Barry.
Dubbed a “concept album for the stage,” or a “rock ’n’ roll concert that tells a story” The God That Comes features music and theatrical storytelling by Workman, with a story inspired by the Greco-Roman god of wine and uses Euripides’ classic The Bacchae as a primary source.
“In a world ruled by greed and an oppressive king obsessed with rules and order, the lesser classes have taken to the countryside in a hedonistic spiritual revolution fuelled by wine, ritual madness and ecstasy. Women, slaves, outlaws, and foreigners have all gone to the mountain to worship the god of wine, and to commune with their animal needs to dance, lose control, get drunk and have sex. The king rails against the protesters, leading to a bloody conclusion. The God that Comes is a tonic for a society that has lost its sense of balance, and for a people that have lost touch with their animal instincts. It is an invitation to raise a glass together, hear a story, and get lost in the music.”
Directed by Barry, performed by Workman and written by them both, The God That Comes is slated to make its world premiere at Alberta Theatre Projects playRites Festival of new Canadian plays in March, 2013. Lucky Victoria audiences will get to check out this work-in-progress version, just days after the performance was workshopped for two weeks at the Banff Centre Playwrights Colony.
The majority of the show was written in Calgary at Alberta Theatre Projects and during a workshop week at Workman’s studio near Burk’s Falls, Ont.
“We were really blessed to be at ATP,” says Workman. “They gave us a big space, a piano and six days to just marinate. We wrote a song for every day we were there. The second workshop was in my space and we got another song each day.”
Workman wanted to make sure the songs could stand on their own as great songs and that he could be proud to sing them outside of this show.
“I wanted to make sure they weren’t sung dialogue, which I don’t have much of a taste for,” he says. “I wanted these songs to be lovely creations, that the lyrics would have power and hold their own water outside of this piece.”
“Each day we would set up and fill the room with the right ghosts to guide the message or the feeling,” says Barry. Some wine was involved. “We do seem to gravitate towards the reds,” says Barry. “There’s definitely some blood in this story.”
The result is a one-man-band show that will see Workman play the roles of the King, the God and the King’s Mother. He’ll also play piano, drums, ukulele, three guitars and other percussive instruments.
“What’s really great is that this time in Victoria, we’re able to put all these crazy ideas in front of an audience,” says Barry. “That’s the most important part, to put it in front of people and see how they respond.”
“At its core, we hope this is a show that will celebrate the more irrational and central aspects of our humanity, and so we’re trying to not allow ourselves to be tied down by the rules of storytelling and the details of exposition and facts and words. We’re trying to not let it be driven by that and that the animal impulses in the piece is what’s driving it,” says Barry. “It’s not trying to conform …. It’s trying to be a very musical and sensual thing.” M
Note: Show starts promptly at 8 p.m. and there are no late admissions. Doors at 7:45pm.
The God That Comes
Sun. May 27 to Tues. May 29 at 8pm
Sunday is pay-what-you-can at the door.
Tickets $25/$26 in advance
The Atomic Weight of Happiness
Dance Theatre looks at happiness on a human level
Find out what’s at the heart of human happiness in an hour-long experiment to arrest global warming; dissect, identify and measure the ingredients of each human emotion; and determine whether anatomical deviations are drug induced oddities or random genetic mutations.
Directed by Andrea Donaldson, performed by Meagan O’Shea and written by the two collaboratively, The Atomic Weight of Happiness explores three themes that run through the 60-minute show, described as dance theatre by O’Shea.
There are three or four themes that run through the show,” says O’Shea. “The goal in creation was to see how we could connect them and bring them to some resolution together.
“The themes start together, end together and are mixed up in the middle, but there’s a logic to it.”
The daughter of two high school teachers, O’Shea grew up in Ottawa but bounced around the country until moving to Toronto 13 years ago. She’s now the artistic director of Stand Up Dance, which creates innovative physical performances that blur the lines between dance and theatre, performance and action.
“I went to a high school for the arts in a theatre program, but danced outside of school. In my wisdom at 16, I decided to dance first and act later and low and behold, my work is a combination of dance and theatre,” she says.
This performance looks at the environment and sustainability, the basis of human emotion, storytelling and travel.
The Dora Award-nominated set, designed by Lindsay Anne Black, is comprised of 12 four-foot tiles or mats, four for the environment theme, four for the storytelling theme and four for the travelling theme. The gutters in between represent emotion.
“I start with four emotions: joy, sorrow, fear and anger, and combine them to see what lies between,” says O’Shea. “Because I’m a dancer, I explore that with movement. There’s a movement for each emotion and I combine the moves and see what I end up with. It’s all sort of recipe-esque. Can you arrive at feeling those things by doing those things? Like if you do the move for despair enough will you feel despair? Like if you act depressed then you eventually feel depressed.”
The set also features miniatures of important places in the story — a house, a school, an ant hill — and the lights are powered by a stationary exercise bike (Lighting designer Michelle Ramsay was also nominated for a Dora Award for Outstanding Lighting Design).
“When I pedal, it generates power to turn on the lights,” says O’Shea. “But I can only make enough power to last for a while, then I have to get on and pedal again.”
“It’s very set and prop heavy,” says O’Shea. “There are a lot of bits and bobs that I play with.”
O’Shea performed as part of Theatre SKAM’s Bike Ride last summer, and was also a dancer-in-residence with Dance Victoria.
O’Shea will be offering a Physical Theatre Workshop (June 2, $50. Pre-registration required, 250-590-6291). M
The Atomic Weight of Happiness
With Meagan O’Shea
Thurs. May 31 at 6:30pm, Fri. June 1 at 7pm and Sat. June 2 at 4pm.
Intrepid Theatre Club (1609 Blanshard)
A Chilean revolutionary in love
Carmen Aguirre’s Blue Box
Learn more about 2012 CBC Canada Reads winning author (Something Fierce) Carmen Aguirre’s life as an underground revolutionary in the Chilean resistance in Blue Box, a Nightswimming Theatre production in association with Neworld Theatre.
Written and performed by Aguirre, Blue Box tells two stories in Aguirre’s life from her dangerous days in the mountain passes of Chile to the rollercoaster of Hollywood, paralleling her ardent love affair with a Chicano TV star and the passionate love for her country.
“They parallel each other because one story is about romantic love and the other is about revolutionary love,” says Aguirre. “And we see where self-love fits in. The stories take place in Vancouver and in Los Angeles, but they’re ten years apart.”
This dark comedy made its premiere at the Cultch (Vancouver East Cultural Centre) in early May to critical acclaim.
The set is minimal so that the emphasis is solely on the text of terror, romance and abandon.
“We basically keep the house lights on so I can see the audience and make connection with them, and they can see that I can see them,” says Aguirre. “Every night it’s a little shaky getting started.”
Aguirre’s other one-woman play Chili Con Carne was mounted at the 2008 Uno Fest by Victoria’s Puente Theatre. Aguirre is also a playwright-in-residence at the Belfry Theatre in Fernwood, where she’s working on a play called the Tina Modotti Project, which looks at the life of famous 1920s’ photographer Modotti. M
By Carmen Aguirre
Fri. and Sat. June 1-2 at 8:30pm
Tickets $25/$26 in advance
Friday night is pay-what-you-can
God is a Scottish Drag Queen
There is no disappointment when you go to hear GOD speak: Mike Delamont delivers seventy minutes of ripe social commentary in the back of the fabulous Fort Café, and he does it EVERY NIGHT of the Fringe. This is stand-out stand-up, and it would do you good to get down there eeeeearly, as it’s likely going to be sold out for its run. I didn’t look too hard at my Fringe program guide before sitting down for the show, and I thought this chap actually was Scottish. Guy is from Victoria! He ripped so hard on Pope Benedict that he had us crying and he shredded Easter, Lent, and hipsters at the Market on Yates up into little pieces. Aided only by a few hilarious projections on the wall behind him and a little piece of paper taped to the ceiling to ensure he didn’t fly too far off track, GOD bestowed us with mirth and kept the capacity-crowd falling about their chairs & pints. And by the end he was earnestly reminding all of us: heaven is right here, all around us. Get. In. To. This. Show.
— Brody Slater
The Birdmann himself described his act to me as “part Tom Waits, part Muppet Show.” What an understatement.
Hard to describe and impossible to summarize, The Birdmann will blow your mind. Think vaudeville with a hint of LSD and a bar of soap.
From the moment the Birdmann steps to the mic, it’s impossible to look away. His tight black pants, tuxedo jacket and shirt, gravity-defying hair-do and inescapable presence will have you mesmerized and giggling. All set to a background of jazz and black curtains, the experience is surreal.
Aside from being a mind-bending experience, this is a polished and professional show that would be a shame to miss.
(11 out of 11 bars of soap)
— Courtney Bard Smith
Before there was our English language and Shakespeare there was Middle English and Chaucer, the bawdy bard whose Canterbury Tales brought the 14th century alive with stories satirizing English society. Victoria-by-way-of-Toronto actor Julian Cervello presents an edited version of the General Prologue, playing 29 characters in the process. Performing entirely in Middle English, which sounds like melodious German and has many words in common with the language we speak today, Cervello readily conjures up a succession of recognizable characters: nuns, priests, the miller, a merchant, a “doctour o physik.” The liberal use of hand gestures provides charades-style clues to what is going on with the narrative, and Cervello’s marvelously fluid acting provides further context and differentiation. Nobody is likely to walk out of Canterbury grappling with Chaucer’s world view, but the tour-de-force performance is persuasive and even mesmerizing. Middle English gets a top-of-the-class interpretation!
— Robert Moyes