After a strong first week, I was admittedly a little disappointed with what I was able to see during Week 2 of Fresh Meat 2016.
There were good laughs and hearty chortles to be sure, but on the whole they gave off a rather unpolished, unpracticed feel. Sometimes that worked for what the actors were trying to do, other times not so much. But, before too many generalizations are made, let’s take a look at the individual acts a bit more closely.
(Small disclaimer: Weather kept me from making it in time to Will Somers’ Pierre Brault, so I won’t be providing a review for that performance (though feel free to leave your own opinions about it in the comment section below) . That being said, if it’s anything like Pierre Brault”s Will Somers, it is surely bound to be top notch and full of laughs! )
“Oh No!” Said the Parrot
After the incredible performance Madeleine Hall put on during Fresh Meat 2015, my expectations were rather high for Mitchel Rose’s“On No!” Said the Parrot. Regrettably, this show did not quite meet the mark.
The show starts with a crash of thunder and flash of lightning as Hall’s character struggles to find her dimly lit way to the eerie (and very pink!) Airbnb she’s booked. Right from the get-go, the stage exudes a definite Bates Motel vibe, from the outdated and sparse furniture to the “polite” note left behind by the owner. There are certainly some very eerie moments in the show – especially with the building intrigue concerning the veiled figure at the back of the stage. The subtle horror, however, is typically underscored by various bits of comedy and entertaining cultural references — such as the very Home Alone-esque threatened-by-the-TV sequence.
Hall plays something of the clown in her role, an unsuspecting victim with an almost cartoonish dislogical way of responding to the world around her. With limited dialogue, it’s difficult to get to know her character particularly well, but Hall manages to express quite a lot with her silent expressions and physicality. It’s Mitchel Rose, though, who steals the show when he finally makes his much anticipated appearance. The intelligent and eloquent parrot, Rose is the only one who truly knows the score. While his appearance is rather strange, it does serve as the cherry on the top of this absurdist play.
This performance is easily divided into a string of sequences, and while many were compelling in their own ways, they wound up feeling more or less disjointed, making you wonder whether more time, more content was needed to create a slightly more cohesive script.
On October 31, 1968, Donald Crowhurst – an inexperienced sailor in an experimental boat – set sail to participate in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, an endeavour that was meant to earn him the fame and renown needed to save his ailing business.
In Crow’s Nest, Jake William Smith plays the enthusiastic Crowhurst – along with a handful of other colourful characters – and details the story of a man who set off to break world records before he even had a completed ship.
Unfortunately, that is somewhat how this play feels as well.
There is an interesting story in Crow’s Nest but it just doesn’t make it through. Biographical tidbits are unearthed in Smith’s monologues, but the contexts are typically buried beneath jokes concerning Crowhurst’s fumbling sanity and bizarre life. While the comedy is welcome in a performance such as this, it makes the story hard to track. It’s hard to tell what’s significant and what is merely comic relief.
Just look up the Wiki on Donald Crowhurst, and it won’t be at all surprising as to why Smith and co-writer Danielle Savoie would choose him as their subject; the man led a bizarre and fascinating life. Yet, the further I scrolled, the more I understood some of the smaller nuances to the play that just didn’t translate without a bit of background information.
Boy Vs. Chair
Out of all the shows, this is the one that I was most intrigued by, the one that I would most like to see once, twice, or even more, just to make sure that I was picking up on everything that I should be. Another slightly abstract performance, Boy Vs. Chair seems to be about a few different things, though Matt Hertendy and Matthew Venner describe it as “a modern parable about the theatre artist’s endless plight to ‘put butts in seats.'”
Enter: “the chair.” An intellectual, vaguely robotic thing that initially serves as a counterpoint to Hertendy, who enters the stage with a boyish demeanor and his very own travel-sized Bop-ItTM. He seems to personify the joy of theatre, to act for the sake of acting, but he encounters “difficulties” when it comes to the chair. After an altercation with the stalwart chair, this performance takes a suddenly darker twist.
Enter: The Chair. There is something exceptionally Cronenburg-y about Venner’s personification of the chair. Dressed all in black, legs bound together, arms thrust uncomfortably through a blackened set of crutches, making his bizarre, hopping way onto stage. He becomes an eerie and oppressive force, antagonizing Hertendy while he tries to have fun with audience and his Bop-ItTM.
While there are plenty of laughs to be had in this performance, it’s one that will make you regret drowning out bits of rare narration from “the chair” and will leave you feeling more than a little unsettled at its conclusion…
Gabbie Lazavoritz’s Tead Talks was another of this evening’s comedies that seemed to suffer from a lack of direction. Parodying the popular Ted Talks format, Tead Talks features Deborah Ring as three highly questionable professionals that may or may not have been “found in the For Free section of Kijiji.”
From a forty-year-old white male explaining “how to feminism,” to a ginger rapper looking, ultimately, to get laid, to a woman with startling self-confidence attempting to explore Body Dysmorphic Disorder – expect this to be a talk that you would never want to sit through in the real world, but therein lies the comedy. This is a parade of ignorance and candidness that can urge anyone to chuckle – though admittedly the first speaker loses his flavour pretty quickly with his “progressive” ideas about feminism. However, that’s part of Ring’s skill. She’s so adept at adopting these personae that she can take those jokes that seem funny from the pure shock of them and carry them to the point where they are no longer a laughing matter.
Ring’s ability, though, just isn’t quite enough to tie this show together. Aside from none of the speakers being experts in what they are talking about – perhaps even exemplifying the people who claim to know what they’re talking about, but truly don’t – there is not a lot that connects this show into a cohesive whole.