Jan. 24, 2013 - Issue #901: Children can’t choose
Expect the unexpected
Canoe Theatre Festival embraces the experimental
It contains, by its own boast, "Theatre that rocks the boat." But the Canoe Theatre Festival, Workshop West's collection of edgy, experimental offerings from here and abroad, seems more like the lighthouse than the vessel, a place for the wilder ideas about theatre to steer themselves towards and find stages to explore on.
Now in its sixth year, Canoe's drawing in some splashier names, too: after all, even the well-established like the opportunity to play. Mary Walsh—one of our country's most enduring televised comedians, with a CV including CODCO and This Hour Has 22 Minutes—is making a one-night only stop at Canoe for her one-woman Dancing With Rage.
Her show intertwines a pair of stories: one about The Little Girl Who Grew Up Next Door to Her Family (a somewhat fictionalized spin on Walsh's own origins), and another featuring her This Hour character Marg Delahunty, a warrior clad in crimson Xena armour with a history of ambushing politicians. Between the two will be some commentary on the headlines and modern pop culture of today, though not as much as Walsh imagined at the show's onset.
"There is a certain amount of that," she notes, on the phone from St John's. "Not as much as I thought at first was going to happen, because I was going to be shooting things. But when you're doing live theatre, the amazing thing about live theatre is there's no money," she deadpans, before letting out a laugh.
Throughout her comic career, Walsh has taken aim at the real world around her: with Delahunty, quite literally speaking her mind to politicans, but even the CODCO days were powered by a strong sense of political satire.
"What I really wanted to be was a journalist, I guess, and then I just kind of fell into comedy," Walsh notes, adding that taking a comic perspective to the world around her is a way of making sense of the deluge of information we're all confronted with daily.
"We are so inundated with information. We are drowning in news, we are drowning in events," she says. "We just know everything from everywhere, and yet it makes no sense to us, because there's so much of it. So that any kind of take on it—I mean, I believe that's why Fox News got to be so popular: they weren't really telling you any more information, they were just saying, 'Look, this is how I feel about it and I'm really mad about it. You know what I mean? People thought, 'At least, at last, a life raft I can hang on to. Somebody's got a point of view on this, and maybe I could make it my point of view too.' So I think that satire is very important in that way. And comedy is good, because it's gentle," she adds, before altering her train of thought. "Sometimes it's savage, I suppose ... "
In addition to Walsh's show, Canoe's rounding itself out with, first, a pair of shows from the UK. Northern Soul collects Victoria Melody's attempts to understand both "Pigeon Fancying" and titular niche style of music in her country, while A Western looks to involve its audience as much as its actors in a classic genre piece. At the curious, farthest tip of imported works is White Rabbit Red Rabbit: its creator, Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour, is forbidden by his government to travel. So he's sent along the script—sealed—and every night a new actor will open it without ever having seen it before, or rehearsing, or having anything to go on but Soleimanpour's words and their own performative impulses.
And then there's a pair of local shows receiving upgraded reprisals: Punctuate Theatre's Vice Versa finds one of the city's newest clown duos going through the death and mourning process, handling their grieving with all the levity that a pair of alcoholic clowns on a hot-dog diet can muster. Meanwhile, crowned fringe royalty Send in the Girls Burlesque is revamping its coronation show, Tudor Queens.
"One of the major things that happened as we were putting together Tudor Queens is we were learning how to do burlesque by doing burlesque," explains Ellen Chorley, co-founder of Send in the Girls. "We were teaching ourselves as we were going. And I think that we learned a lot doing that show, and then we learned even more doing A Bronte Burlesque this past summer. We knew that if we came back to it, we really wanted to bring what we had learned, and challenge oursleves more."
Being part of a experimental festival, Chorley notes, is the ideal place to do so.
"It's really great that we get to be a part of that atmosphere. It's billed as an experimental theatre festival, so I think that because Tudor Queens was a big experiment for us when we put it together, it's really great to be able to refine the experiment, and continue to experiment with the show in that festival atmosphere, where they encourage that."
Thu, Jan 24 – Sun, Feb 3
Canoe Theatre Festival
Schedule at workshopwest.org
vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
Vue respects your privacy. We will not forward your personal information to any other organization except as required by law, and will use your e-mail address only to respond to your comments. We reserve the right to edit and remove comments for length, clarity and/or if they are illegal or inappropriate. Your email address is never shown to visitors to vueweekly.com. Read the whole policy at: http://vueweekly.com/privacy