An engaging theatre
of the absurd comedy
Infinithéâtre’s The King Stinks makes good use of puppetry
By Byron Toben
March 6, 2023
I arrived at the Rialto Theatre‘s upper hall on a snowy evening to catch the Infinithéâtre remounting of The King Stinks by and starring Jon Lachlan Stewart, along with Clara Prevost.
I almost lost my footing and was about to sink into a snow bank but could not resist thinking my headline could be “A Critic Sinks as the King Stinks,” just as two hale and hearty passers-by managed to keep me vertical.
An excellent interview by WestmountMag colleague Irwin Rapaport had prepped me for this show which in many ways was a “theatre of the absurd,” a term introduced by 1950s critic Martin Esslin and exemplified by Ionescu, Genet, Beckett and many others. And this affinity to the Dada fad of the early 1920s is reflected by Stewart’s naming of his production company as Surreal So Real .
In this show, the King is actually referred to as a president forced by the system to become more authoritarian, which causes his body to emanate unpleasant smells. Lots of superior body movement by him and his first lady as they become mime-like, but with words. Trendy words pervade their utterances such as “Let’s be the change we want” and the adoption of a national plant (cannabis?), along with executions, attacks and bombings. Hand puppets are used as well as a floor mop and a large paper bag for other characters, well-fitting both Infinitheatre artistic director Zach Fraser and Mr. Stewart’s history with puppets.
Infinithéâtre… has been passed from long-time artistic director Guy Sprung into good hands with Zach Fraser’s innovative choices, which include publishing and selling some of their past scripts in addition to live shows and dramatic readings.
The clever but disjointed rapid action led me to remember Aristotle’s enunciation that a play should consist of three parts – a beginning, a middle and an ending. This linear sequence was certainly lacking here, mostly all middle. Oh wait – the King/President does die at the end. Not sure if the stink element disappeared or was enhanced in his corpse.
I suspect that somewhere out there, in the playwright multiverse, someone is labouring to craft a Trump equivalent to Bennett’s wildly successful The Madness of King George III. The King Stinks is a good starter along the way, but for that needs a more linear structure for mass appeal.
Infinithéâtre, started, sort of, by onetime Montreal theatre critic Marianne Ackerman, has been passed from long-time artistic director Guy Sprung into good hands with Zach Fraser’s innovative choices, which include publishing and selling some of their past scripts in addition to live shows and dramatic readings.
The King Stinks ran at the Rialto from March 1 to 5
Images: Caroline Hayeur
Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.