I’m now caught up recording my theatregoing experiences of a busy week. I’m going to Rapid Fire Theatre’s Date Night Fundraiser (facebook link) tonight, and to Die-Nasty on Monday, but otherwise I don’t have anything on the calendar until the Rapid Fire improv-workshop performance night that I’m performing in on Thursday 31 January. (Suggestions, invitations, and temptations for shows not to miss next week and the week after are, of course, welcome!)
Two original clown shows, each about an hour long, make up A Clown Double Bill this weekend at Punctuate Theatre’s TACO Space. Previously I’d only ever encountered this small warehouse blackbox space at the Fringe festival in August, so I was relieved to discover that the wintertime arrangement has a pleasant lobby and a downstairs bathroom and doesn’t involve having the audience sit in a performance space with an open garage door until it’s time to start.
Lost ‘N Lost Department, by PIE Factory Collective of Calgary, was a three-handed story performed by creators Elaine Weryshko, Jed Tomlinson, and Kristin Eveleigh. It made good use of a charmingly-detailed set, and of the humour of physical repetitions. The clowns spoke partly in gibberish with enough English and French to be understood. You could see how engaged the audience had become in their reality by the number of horrified gasps when a cardboard box was damaged. As in many clown realities, the characters seem to be adults, but they don’t seem to have relevant gender or sexuality. That’s not part of the story and it doesn’t matter. The story would be appropriate for any children old enough to appreciate the absurdity and tolerate the occasional sad bit, and the program notes say it started as a piece for the Calgary International Children’s Festival.
Sofa So Good, by Small Matters Productions, involves the same characters as the 2012 Edmonton Fringe offering Fools For Love, played by Edmontonians Christine Lesiak (Sheshells) and Adam Keefe (Rocket) and created by them along with their director Jan Henderson, the well-known clowning instructor from University of Alberta. As in the first-act show, the characters spoke a bit in a stylized fashion, but communicated mostly through actions and facial expressions. They used a few simple props. Both companies involved the audience a little bit, but not in embarrassing ways. I loved the ways in which the characters’ gender expression was played but not overplayed – I could laugh at the ways a woman might be childish or ridiculous and the ways a man might be childlike or ridiculous without feeling as if these differences were insurmountable or the most important facets of the characters, or as if the portrayals were hostile or gender essentialist.. Several jokes came from a “Clownsmopolitan” magazine, which appeared to have images on both covers like a typical Cosmo cover girl and cosmetic ad, but with clown noses. As in the Fringe show, the most enjoyable parts of this show were when the characters shifted seamlessly from two adults setting up housekeeping to two playful collaborators in delightful pretending games, clearly enjoying each other’s company in various fictional universes. Part of the story was risqué enough that your 12-year-old would be mortified to be seeing it with chortling parents, but would then probably repeat the whole thing to his or her friends. Not having family members with me, my inner 12-year-old was free to guffaw.
There are three more shows, Saturday night, Sunday afternoon, and Sunday night. If you enjoy clown work in general or if you liked Fools for Love, you should definitely catch it.