High Performance Rodeo
January 3 – February 3, 2013
Listen to my overview and picks for the Rodeo on CBC Eyeopener from January 7th at http://www.cbc.ca/eyeopener/columnists/theatre/2013/01/07/high-performance-rodeo-kicks-off/
Well, here we go again – the 27th year of the High Performance Rodeo, the international festival of arts – and I have been squirming with anticipation ever since I saw the line up back in November. With a tremendously strong roster of performances and an extra week in the schedule to give us all some breathing room, I am keeping my fingers optimistically crossed for a spectacular month of theatre in Calgary.
My top two picks are shows that I have been hearing about from critics and audiences for some time now. Ride the Cyclone is a show from Victoria based Atomic Vaudville and is a comedic musical about a teenage chamber choir from Saskatchewan. The twist is every member of the choir is recently dead due to a roller coaster accident, but that doesn’t stop them from having a final recital where they get to sing their hearts out as they come to terms with their death. Very odd premise to be sure, but this show has been a HUGE hit everywhere it’s played, with audiences and with critics alike. It not only won the Dora Mayor award for best touring show, but my colleagues in Toronto awarded it Best Musical at the Toronto Critic’s awards last year and have been urging me to see it ever since.
The second play I’m looking forward to is Metamorphosis – yes the Franz Kafka’s famous story. A man wakes up one morning to find that he has inexplicably transformed into a giant insect. Understandably his family is horrified and repulsed but they all try to press on with life and deal with the situation. This is a co production between an Icelandic and UK theatre company and it has played to world-wide acclaim – and I mean like 5 stars in the Guardian, rave reviews in Australia, Hong Kong, New York, Germany you name the city, they’ve loved it. What makes the production so compelling is that the actor playing the insect literally acrobats himself all over the stage as an insect would – hanging from the ceiling, jumping from one precarious place to another. I’m told it’s a jaw dropping performance and is definitely a unique theatre experience not to be missed.
On the local front, Calgary’s One Yellow Rabbit is going in a completely different direction this year to bring us People You May Know, a digital puppet show about a financial Ponzi scheme. Apparently the show was inspired by the Photo Booth software on computers that transforms facial images into funny mutations a la Funhouse mirrors. The actors in the show sit on the stage and use this technology to create the story’s characters which are projected above them. So while there are only three actors in the show – the face mutating technology allows them to play a whole cast of characters. It’s certainly a bold and unique choice for the Rabbits and I’m very curious to see how they pull it off.
In addition to these shows, I will be seeing and reviewing:
Look Mummy, I‘m Dancing – a monologue performance about a transsexual woman slowly peels off her sixty-year-old skin until she reveals the reverse side of her soul.
This is What Happens Next – Master solo performer Daniel MacIvor in a stream of consciousness take on everything from divorce to The Little Mermaid to addiction to your own free will.
Schlachter – Tango – About a Jew sent by the Germans to a concentration camp for homosexuality and then, post liberation, opens the first gay bar in Hanover.
No question there is lots to see this month. All of it decidedly unconventional – which makes me happy as I like risk-taking in the theatre and I do believe that Calgary audiences are sophisticated and open-minded enough to enjoy this kind of theatrical challenge. So let’s get out there and Rodeo!! And as always – I’ll see you at the theatre.