Review: Centaur’s Wildside Festival – Part 2
The eclectic nature of the 2016 Wildside Festival at the Centaur continues…
By Byron Toben
Little One by Hannah Moscovitch (a National Theatre School alumna) is a gripping horror suspense duet. Daniel Arnold is perfect as Aaron, an older brother to Marisa Smith as Clare, his chillingly psychopathic little sister. Both are adoptees of a well meaning, somewhat naïve Dad and Mom who never appear on stage but are frequently invoked by Aaron as Clare ups the ante with disappearances of, progressively, goldfish, turtles and a kitten.
Outside counselling seems to bear little fruit as Clare exhibits lack of empathy reminiscent of Rhoda, the Bad Seed little girl of Maxwell Anderson’s 1954 Broadway play and later film. But Rhoda’s actions were disguised by a sweet outer composure, whereas Clare is more obviously amoral. Aaron’s growing impatience is blended with the existence of a neighbouring couple, a Canadian computer guy and his oriental mail order bride, plus Clare’s confused sexual awakenings intruding upon her sibling affections.
When this play was a hit at Toronto’s Summerworks fest a few years ago, the role of Aaron was played by popular ex-Montrealer Joe Cobden.
Ms. Moscovitch, now the playwright in residence at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre, is considered one of Canada’s top playwrights. At only 37, she has had 11 produced. In addition to Little One, I have seen her The Russian Play and East of Berlin and am keen to view the other eight somewhere, sometime.
Little One continues on Friday, January 15 at 9 pm, Saturday, January 16 at 2pm and Sunday, January 17 at 7 pm.
Feature image: scene from Little One, photographed by Kaarina Venalainen.
TJ’S Variety Pack
The tall and lanky TJ Dawe, who can always be counted on to do something different, has four horses in this Wildside meet. Each showing paraded a different mount under the umbrella of a “variety pack”.
The four here were drawn from his creation of 11 unique monologues that he has performed in 100 Fringe Shows over 20 years. Just to keep busy, he has also co-written four one acts with others and directed others in eight (three of which featured Westmount’s Fringe pride, Keir Cutler).
The four selected were The Slip Knot, Marathon, Medicine and Burn Job. I skipped The Slipknot, his most performed show, which I had seen at its Montreal premiere in 2001 and reprised at the Just For Laughs comedy festival. Suffice it to say it deals with the vicissitudes of holding three shitty no end jobs. You can see excerpts on the internet to get a feel for it.
The other three share some commonalities so I will comment on them together. But first, how I first encountered TJ before he was dubbed as a Fringe God.
In 1999 while reporting on the Fringe for the free weekly Downtowner (a forerunner to the Mirror and the Hour, all gone now) I churned out my own Fringe review the Daily Playlet (typed by hand, photocopied by shop, distributed to venues by foot) to afford attendees comment more meaningful than the shallow “buzz notes” stuck on the beer tent fences.
TJ was a new entrant that year with Tired Cliches. I had not planned to see him but it worked out on the last day that I had an open time slot near his venue on the McGill campus so I popped by. TJ discussed timeworn human observations while repetitively climbing a ladder and diving into a sea of large empty boxes. This creative spirit caused me to chalk him in as a must for his future Fringe shows like Labrador, 52 Pick Up, and the list goes on.
TJ discussed timeworn human observations while repetitively climbing a ladder and diving into a sea of large empty boxes. This creative spirit caused me to chalk him in as a must for his future Fringe shows…
Now back to the present. All three that I did attend sprang from his beginnings in a Vancouver suburb where his Dad was a high school principal — in fact, his Catholic high school, where he was a conventional pupil, not out of deep conviction, but just because it was the way things were.
Yet as in Burn Job, he had enough of an outsider feeling to aid a teen friend in setting off pipe bomb fireworks. While participating in his dad’s track meet as a last place Marathon runner, he was enough of a humorous upstart to pass the grandstand in splendid last place isolation, waving his long arms, à la Mr. Hulot, as if he had just won. The crowd’s appreciation perhaps was one factor that decided him to attend theatre school at the university of Victoria.
Free from former conventions and meeting a student weed culture, his outsider propensities flourished. He delighted in learning things himself and rebelled against being told or forced. With theatre, he didn’t want to have to depend on other actors or have to audition. The discovery of the Fringe phenomenon was fortuitous. One could write, direct and book oneself without depending on others.
… he didn’t want to have to depend on other actors or have to audition. The discovery of the Fringe phenomenon was fortuitous. One could write, direct and book oneself without depending on others.
A real autodidact, as were G. Bernard Shaw and the boxing champion Gene Tunney, TJ’s influences range from the Marx Brothers to George Carlin to Marvel comics to the collected works of Anthony Burgess of Clockwork Orange fame. In these recent monologues, his research has become more mind-altering, hence the plant ayahuasca in Medicine and holotropic breathing in Burn Job as well as personality types in the Enneagram — he is a classic type 4.
All these intertwining thoughts, ironies and jokes meander about in a rapid-fire delivery as they all manage to come together at the end, anchored by his appreciation of his girl friend’s stability in his nomadic life.
TJ’s Variety Pack ended on January 10 as he embarks on a US tour. Check out Tjdawe.ca
The late free music in the Centaur lobby at 10:30 pm on January 14, 15 and 16 continues with its theme of the works of David Bowie, who sadly died last Sunday, just 2 days after his 69th birthday and the release of his new album.
The 2015 edition of Wildside featured Tom Waits and the inaugural 2014 edition that of Lou Reed, whose song Walk On The Wildside was the inspiration for this festival’s. Guess who produced that Reed album. Why, none other than… David Bowie!
Which relevant musician will curator Johanna Nutter come up with next year?
Here’s a link to part 1 of Review: Centaur’s Wildside Festival
Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club.