Two very different productions in Vancouver: both get the audience involved as part of the show; both are coming to the end of their current tours here and both with likely be back on the road in the new year.
Both are highly entertaining and one will lift your heart and the other may inflame your spirit.
Two of the most charismatic clowns around Aaron Malkin and Alastair Knowles have created a delightfully childlike show about two friends who meet regularly for tea. Both are very British, yet very eccentrically different.
Mr. Knowles is the higher status clown complete with silly walks while twisting his body constantly into crazily dexterous angles as he exacts his rules of interactions and tea consumption.
Mr. Malkin is the middle class fatherly warm clown. Easily hurt but stoically brave about it, he both suffers Jamesy’s rules and gently offers suggestions.
Their charming interactions encompass two loosely structured sketches that get unsuspecting audience members playing first a general in the army and then members of Jamesy’s family.
Although there are some wonderful comedy bits and oodles of fun presented in a carefree, non-urgent way – the remarkable thing is how much the audience wants to play, many of them eagerly leaping into their parts and adding to the fun.
Sure the show is short on some details, like, why do they meet and how do they come to know each other and sure there is room for more specific audience member influence on the proceedings – that in no way diminishes the originality of the presentation and the skill of the artists.
There is a touching and sweet ending of this show that leaves the door open to further adventures by these beguiling clowns and I eagerly wait to see what happens next time they have tea.
Simply delicious and delightful.
David Diamond is a Joker. A Joker is a narrator and guide and instigator in an event that units audience with concept. Mr. Diamond is also a compassionate caring smart person who wants the world to better place.
Theatre for Living (formally Headlines Theatre) frequently uses Augusto Boals Theatre of The Oppressed style of interactive plays. A group of performers (not necessarily actors) do a short play and then it gets recreated with audience members stepping in to try alternate things in place of an oppressed character.
This production is different. As they say; it is theatre without a net, no actors, no play, no script. Mr. Diamond explains the rules, we must only share if we want to share – no one will be ‘volunteered’, we must only talk about personal issues not concepts or ideas.
He asks us if anyone feels they are being bombarded with corporate messaging? Did we know the average person is receiving 3500 messages a day? He shares information about how in Canada and the US corporations have the same rights as people and how marketing products has changed from ‘we make a good product’ to ‘you need our product to feel good about yourself’ to the new “we love you so you must be loyal to us’.
But this is not a lecture, it’s a conversation and he is constantly checking in with us to keep it personal. The theatre we are going to create together is not an intellectual exercise, it has to be physical, psychological and emotional.
They he asks for three people to share a true story when they personally felt a corporate message / advertizing message they received was unhealthy for them.
The audience has to vote for one they felt resonated with them the most. Each story was named by the teller, we had; Trading Convenience for Corruption and The Poverty Princess Vs. Fame, but we voted for This Is Bullshit.
What happened next was entirely entertaining and very cathartic. Our Joker took the story and expanded it and invited audience members to become emblems of the messaging and he turned us into characters. We then acted out scenarios and had even more audience members interact with us. It was sometimes upsetting and often times hilarious and it was also very profound.
It was about community building and there were no hero’s or villains in this story, it was more about static clearing and finding light.
You leave the experience shaken and excited. Some because of the sense of play and community but others left with the impetus to action.
That’s powerful theatre.
David C. Jones