A Dante-like descent into the frozen Pit marked the beginning of the King’s Infringement Festival’s fourth night, and this night was about goats, grafts and gender-bending—in other words, everything Greek.
The capacity crowd took their seats for Cassandra Thorbjornsen’s The Princess and the Pirate, a story of swashbuckle and savvy on the high seas. This show’s pseudo-feminist, girl power message was at times undermined by awkward delivery and a healthy dose of misandry, and, like many of the night’s shows, it felt long. The all-female cast, however, enjoyed taking the audience along with them on the Disney-esque adventure, and the show’s costumes and music cues showed impressive preparation.
Next, the Greeks took the stage with Darrin Carr’s Oedipus and Stuff, a comedic retelling of Sophocles’ Oedipus trilogy. If you think incest and patricide aren’t funny, you should see them dabbled with stoner comedy and off-the-cuff dialogue. The show’s large cast and copious poop jokes hilariously balanced any lag that resulted from summarizing ancient Greek theatre.
The first block of shows ended with the much-anticipated Arthur: The College Years, a collaborative effort by Dave Etherington and John Cavan to imagine Arthur the Aardvark’s university future. This show pushed the envelope and matched childhood references with talented comedic acting (Sean Young performed Arthur with particularly good yellow-sweatered awkwardness).
A short intermission and a warming pint of stout later, the audience came back to a disclaimer about strong content and Aleya Jesson’s dark drama Candy from Strangers. Jesson’s play touched on child abuse, human trafficking and prostitution, and attempted the difficult tale of an affair between a prostitute and her pimp’s daughter.
The antagonistic pimp, portrayed by Jesson herself, was given a somewhat one-dimensional treatment, which did disservice to the potential complexity of the character. Some interesting writing cast some light on this dimension, but in all I felt such sensitive subject matter was not explored with sufficient honesty or care.
Despite this treatment, this ambitious and challenging story was nonetheless an interesting one and a welcome change of pace from the comedic madness of the night’s first half.
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A short transition and introduction from director Laura Vingoe-Cram set the stage for Matthew Green’s The Goat Song. The show’s honest writing and performance combined the dry, tense drama of a self-destructing family with the dark intensity of Greek tragedy.
The chilling effect of dramatic action taking place offstage, common to Greek drama, was reproduced with some fantastic performances from the cast, while the director’s sudden snaps that marked each transition gave the show a surreal, nervous feel.
It was a slightly awkward transition from such emotional intensity to the understated office comedy of Sean Mott’s Frozen Asset. Michael Tucker’s direction and the performances of the cast, however, earned the audience’s laughter with some hilarious characters and excellent economic satire.
The night ended with Jon Bolduc’s one-man show Man Turns Into Cat. For those familiar with previous King’s fringe events, Bolduc’s feline-inspired monologues should be well-known by now. His typically informal rapport with the audience sets the tone for the absurdity of his self-referential mancat madness.
Bolduc, whose usual medium is poetry, used a script onstage, which helped the show’s public address style but sometimes impacted his delivery. That said, his transformation into a megalomaniacal kitten puppet, which put the audience in stitches, demonstrated how this deliberate staged feeling can work to Bolduc’s advantage.
With that, the audience ascended to the warmth of the Wardroom again, satisfied by another healthy dose of student theatre (and tasty Greek hors d’oeuvres).
Infringement continues tonight, Feb. 8, with the Pit and Red Room shows’ second performances. We’ll have John Last’s reviews of the Red Room shows tomorrow.
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