There’s all kinds of fun at the August Strindberg theme park!
And now, thankfully, something completely different.
After two weeks of slogging through the Swedish master playwright’s vision of a world covered in darkness, death and corruption, August Strindberg’s Flying Circus arrives like a pie in the face. The atmosphere opening night at the Park Theatre for one of the last entries to debut at StrindbergFest was decidedly upbeat, the cast of locals young and the humour subversive as well as silly. The Monty Pythoners would have been proud of the breadth and quality of the contributions.
The stated aim of Flying Circus, performed by a collective of university students and recent graduates, was to open a window into the mind of the mad master of modern theatre through a cabaret of music, film, dance, readings, theatre and live cartoons. Just to catch everyone up, the evening opens with a short Pythonesque film biography by James Van Niekerk about Strindberg “who was the Marilyn Manson of his day” and got “the Mel Gibson treatment” for his foul-mouthed pronouncements on women.
Most of the works presented are based on Strindberg short stories. One, The Story of Jubal, is recited expertly by narrator Elizabeth Madden, while Half a Sheet of Foolscap gets played out by Ivan Henwood and Jane Walker with video accompaniment. Neither are as thematically dark as most of his plays but highlight other preoccupations with identity and remembering what life has bestowed upon you.
William O’Donnell’s Romeo and Julia, also a Strindberg short shot, features a young couple talking about a piece of Guonod music. Unbeknownst to them, the story gets highjacked by a pair of merry pranksters who torment the straight-faced, title characters, whacking them with swords, removing their clothes, covering her in plastic wrap, him in lit Christmas tree lights, with both left silent when hit in the kisser with a shaving cream pie. Strindberg would likely not have been amused but everyone else was at the Park.
William Jordan and Kevin C. Houle contribute their one-act playlet Three Degrees of Impertinence, inspired by the Swedish writer’s short story The Sluggard. It’s an offbeat comic triffle about a conductor (Tobias Hughes) suffering feng shui issues while death is literally at his door.
The lineup includes Strindberg-flavoured live music by singer Claire Morrison and guitarist Daniel Péloquin-Hopfer, dance pieces including one called Agnes from A Dream Play performed by Milcah Abril and live episodes of the Internet cartoon series in which Strindberg interacts with a pink blob named Helium.
The only quibble with the evening is that it ran 45 minutes longer than the one-hour length stated in the StrindbergFest program. No one will likely mind the extended running time but patrons should be aware.
August Strindberg’s Flying Circus
Today 5 & 8:30 p.m. at Park Theatre
Tickets: $12, $10 students/seniors
4 out of 5 stars
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 4, 2011 D5