Free-man on the Land, playing at the Roxy Theatre on 124 Street, is the most unconventional or postmodern performance I have seen since the Fringe Festival. And it’s fun! It was both more playful and more provocative than I expected, and less of a humourless rant (or to keep the alliteration, I could say polemic). The handbill description really doesn’t make it sound as interesting as it is.
I saw a preview show, with the theatre not very full, so I sat in the second row with nobody in the first row. When I realised at the start that the narrator was ignoring the fourth wall and other conventions of theatre, I suddenly wondered if I would regret being so visible – and of course they called on me, but I think I responded well (all this improv training is coming in handy!)
I’ve read a bit about the Free-man on the Land movement and some of its proponents. This Edmonton Journal article is one of the more entertaining bits. I have a lot of sympathy for many people who call themselves anarchists whom I might describe as grassroots activists, but the FOTL thing has me sort of scratching my head and backing away, in general.
In the play, there’s enough story shown and hinted to make the main character (the man commonly known as Richard Svoboda, played by Des Parenteau) interesting and to suggest how he developed his views. His attitudes bring him into conflict with his partner, played by Dale Ladouceur, who also sings several original songs during the show while accompanying herself on a Chapman Stick. Her character isn’t quite as interesting as Richard, but more than a foil. Other parts (a narrator and his chorus or counterfoil, a taxman, a court-appointed defence lawyer, a former employer, etc) were played by director Murray Utas and playwright Steve Pirot.
The Azimuth Theatre production of Free-man on the Land is playing at the Roxy until Sunday January 27th. If you like weird theatre, you should go see it.