Note: I don’t know why the caption isn’t showing up on my photo. That’s Bethany Hughes from Evil Dead talking to the audience members seated in the Splash Zone.
Animal Farm Treatment – I have never studied, read, or seen any version of George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, but as with Sartre’s No Exit, I had a general idea of the theme and I knew one line. During Animal Farm Treatment, a solo show by creator/performer Alice Nelson from Calgary, I wondered how it would appear to an audience member who didn’t know the expected outcome from the original cynical parable. The playbill said that she has a study guide to accompany her show for high school audiences. The performer skilfully switched among several speaking characters, using different physicalities and speech patterns as well as clues of having the characters refer to each other by name, and she used a few simple props to move the story forwards. I knew that the experiment in democracy would not end well, but I kept hoping it would. Two more shows, Friday 2:45 and Saturday 11:30 pm.
Evil Dead – Amanda Neufeld directed this lively, funny, gory musical, which is playing at L’Unitheatre. Bethany Hughes stage managed, and in the picture above is reassuring the audience members in the Splash Zone. Music is a four-piece instrumental group under the direction of Daniel Belland (also seen in Mormonic at this festival). The narrative moves quickly through the tropes of horror fiction, the college students each with his or her own incentives to vacation at a lonely cabin (Matthew Lindholm, Jaimi Reese, Nadine Veroba, Stephen Allred, Josh Travnik), the eerie woods with limited access, the intrepid explorer returning from Egypt to finish her father’s work (Neufeld), the source of local knowledge Reliable Jake (Travnik), and the demons (uncredited here because that would give away some plot). It’s very funny, and the songs are great. The action moves quickly and it’s over in 90 minutes as advertised. Some tickets are available for tonight’s late show.
Puck Bunnies – This is another cleverly-scripted and poignant drag comedy in the spirit of Flora and Fawna’s Field Trip with Fleurette, from Guys in Disguise. Darrin Hagen, Trevor Schmidt, and Jason Hardwick play the girlfriends of junior/minor-league hockey hopefuls, sharing support, gossip, and relationship troubles while in the bleachers for an intra-squad scrimmage. Tammy, Tanya, and Tina are more than silly caricatures (although I have to say that the costumes are spot-on perfect), each with her own struggles. The dramatic-irony part (where the audience knows something a character doesn’t realize) is great. The gentle insertion of a more feminist awareness into a culture of “support the boys at all costs”, by Hardwick’s Tina, is credible and satisfying. I last paid attention to this culture in the mid-90s, I found it disturbing and necessary to be reminded that, despite the pussyhat, some things have not changed. Shows Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons.
You Fucking Earned It – At last year’s inaugural Edmonton Clown Festival (now renamed Play the Fool, and running Sept 28-Oct 1 2017), in a panel discussion Deanna Fleischer (aka Butt Kapinski) pointed out that traditional bouffon was criticizing the king in front of the king, and she challenged performers using bouffon techniques to ask themselves “Is the king in the room?” There are two key points in this. One is to punch up – make fun of the powerful instead of the powerless. The other is that if it’s good bouffon serving its purpose, nobody in the audience should feel comfortable and safe. At the start of the performance of You Fucking Earned It (a Naked Empire Bouffon work featuring Cara McLendon and Sabrina Wenske, directed by Nathaniel Justiniano whom you might recall from You Killed Hamlet), I wondered whether the piece would succeed at the second point for an Edmonton audience, but it definitely did. One more show, 2:45 today (Friday).
The show I’ve been working on, How I Lost One Pound, the Musical, also has one more show this festival, at 6:30 pm today in the Rutherford Room at the Varscona Hotel. We are not sold out at the box office and I will have some tickets available at the door as well. I’d love to show more people this quirky funny low-key narrative about a woman at mid-life. Lesley Carlberg’s show will also be playing at Vancouver Fringe and at Guelph Fringe in October, if you miss it here.