Tag Archives: catch the keys

Spooky October performances 2018

I’m not managing to see everything on Edmonton stages these days, but I wish I could.  I wish I’d seen Lenin’s Embalmers at U of A Studio Theatre, or the Maggie Tree production Blood: A Scientific Romance.  From what I’ve read about them, it looks like the creepy or paranormal themes could have fit into this Hallowe’en-week blog roundup, too.

At the Walterdale Theatre, I helped work on The Triangle Factory Fire Project, a script prepared by Christopher Piehler in collaboration with Scott Alan Evans using various primary source materials, and directed here by Barbara Mah.   It was thought-provoking and disturbing, because the horrible fates of real people were depicted graphically, because the resulting legal case portrayed did not result in justice, and because the hazards of the garment industry juxtaposed with fashion advertising are not so different from their contemporary equivalents.   Watching this story play out every night as one of the booth operators, I kept cheering for some of the determined young women who lived to tell their own stories, particularly Rose Freedman (Danielle Yu), and Ethel Monick, (Stephanie Swensrude), and kept getting angry at the factory owners and their lawyer (Eric Rice, Kent Sutherland, and Matthew Bearsto).  It was a relief to close that show and watch some scary shows for fun.  

Dead Centre of Town XI has four more performances in the Blatchford hangar at Fort Edmonton Park.  This year the macabre true stories researched and written by Megan and Beth Dart of Catch the Keys all relate to air travel.  As usual, the audience members are guided through relevant settings to encounter the characters of various disasters and mysterious happenings, while super-creepy poet/narrator Colin Matty provides extra detail and atmosphere.  “If humans were intended to fly, why are they so Goddamned squishy?”, he muses.  More live-theatre than haunted-house, this annual immersive event does a great job at making the details build up the overall experience – even the ticket distribution (“boarding passes”) and the traffic-management (impersonal masked uniformed airport workers in a crowded “boarding lounge” with staticky announcements) are part of the adventure.

Dark! at Fort Edmonton is new this year, adding on food (with creepy nicknames like Bloody Balls and Skewered Rat), drinks, and adult-level haunted-house attractions.  I went to one of the haunts, and decided that I prefer the Dead Centre of Town style of horrifying imagery enhanced by narrative, to the unexplained jump-scares of Dark!

The Bone House, by Marty Chan, also has performances remaining on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.  It was also very scary in a different style again.  At first it felt like a TV or movie experience, with a forensic-psychology expert presenting an illustrated lecture about serial killers, but it became more unsettling – it was easy to involve myself into the story enough that I could imagine being in danger, but I also began to feel somewhat complicit in choosing to listen to serial-killer narratives in any medium.  Brrr.

This weekend I also managed to fit in a performance of Northern Light Theatre’s Origin of the Species, by Bryony Lavery.  With direction and set/costume design by Trevor Schmidt and performances by Kristin Johnston and Holly Turner, it uses the ridiculous premise of a contemporary archaeologist encountering a live prehistoric woman, to touch on several important themes with a subtle touch.  I particularly enjoyed the very gradual transition of the prehistoric woman Victoria (Johnston) towards modern physicality and communication, and the many ways that both characters subvert assumptions about “traditional” gender roles.

snout – even weirder theatre

My next experience with weird theatre was an Azimuth Theatre / Catch the Keys production called Snout, in the little playing space at the Arts Barns.  I believe it was written by Megan Dart and directed by Beth Dart, but that is from memory because there weren’t any paper programs.  As people entered the theatre, we saw a small tented space, draped with sheets and decorated with living room furniture, which also seemed to be where we should sit.  Atmospheric music was playing, and mysterious video images (Matt Schuurman’s work of course) were projected on the sheets.  An awkwardly-hunched character in bare feet and a burlap poncho (Ben Stevens) welcomed the theatregoers to his house and directed us to the couches, chairs, and cushions on the floor, while steering people away from a kitchen-table set at one end of the room.

We had lots of opportunity to study the space, especially those of us who were a little bit uncomfortable about engaging with the unpredictable character scuttling around.  The draped sheets made a football-shaped space, with openings at either end and at a few other places in the perimeter.  After a while I became aware of a looming bearded presence watching us from the various rents in the draping, but again I kind of averted my attention so as not to engage.  (As I’ve probably already said here, I love weird theatre – but I’m still awkward about being dragged in to participate.)

The main character turned out to be named Ori, and this was his home.  He also introduced us to a Wolf (Steve Pirot), as a friend that he played with and fought with.  The wolf stalked on his hands and feet, hair covering his face, and snarled convincingly enough that my neck got shivers.  The character felt dangerous in that form.  Later, he walked upright and delivered a monologue about possessions, theft, and exchanging valuables, while returning to people various objects of theirs that he had somehow pilfered earlier – in my case, a book about improv theatre that I’d borrowed from one of my teachers.  I was probably easy to steal from because of having tried so hard to ignore him!

The other two characters in the play were an ordinary couple, (Ainsley Hilliard and Mat Simpson), who had been together long enough to remember happier more romantic times, but unsure how and whether to try recapturing those feelings.

And the rest of the performance (I was going to say “story”, but that would suggest something more linear and less lyrical and cryptic) was just those characters interacting with each other and rebounding off each other and hurting each other.  I probably missed a lot – the box-office flyer suggested some resonance with an Isis and Osiris myth, for one thing – but I didn’t mind, because I liked it.